The Swiss are voting this weekend in a referendum on whether the country should adopt the world’s highest minimum wage – 22 Swiss francs an hour (18 euros).
The government and business leaders are opposed, while supporters say it would help smooth out salary inequalities and ensure a person working full time can live decently.
Many who cannot afford the high cost of living in Switzerland already cross borders between work and home.
Thomas Delicado is one of those and so approves of the idea: “I am Swiss and I live in France, so this level of minimum wage would be really useful, plus the lower rent in France. So I think its very good.”
But he is in the minority.
Opinion polls show nearly two thirds will vote no in the minimum wage referendum, which was put forward by the Swiss Trade Union Federation and supported by the Socialist and Green parties.
Pascal Sciarini, a professor of political science as the University of Geneva explained: “There really is this notion among the Swiss people that being too greedy, asking for a bigger salary, asking for more holidays, can have negative consequences at a macro-economic level, and that at some stage workers will lose out from this because it could lead to higher unemployment.”
That is the reason for the Swiss government’s opposition.
It has said that this “would threaten jobs and make it even more difficult for people who lack qualifications and for the young to find a first job”.
The debate around the referendum seems to have already had an effect with several major companies raising, or promising to raise, the salaries of lower-paid workers, or accepted regional minimum wages in collective bargaining agreements with unions.