"How much do you make?" is one question you should probably never ask a Swiss. According to my own experience (and backed by research), less than one percent likes to talk about their salary. But in the advent of the vote on the 1:12 initiative (it did not pass), a public debate has been sparked.
Aldi Suisse and Lidl are commonly known for inexpensive goods, and few would oppose a statement that they have rather lackluster working conditions. However, these discount retailers have now gone on record with a minimum salary of 4700 and 4000 francs respectively - even for unskilled laborers.
This aggressive publicity stunt was heard loud and clear among the Swiss. Remember, talking about one's salary is a taboo around here!
A minimum wage of 4000 francs is particularly hard to accept for the many young apprentices who have chosen the path of skilled labor. The latter is a very common practice in Switzerland.
Right out of Instead of high school, they will enroll in a four-year apprenticeship program. Apart from learning a trade, they will attend school part time to acquire all the skills necessary for becoming masters of their trade.
Average monthly salaries in Zürich after a four year apprenticeship (multiply times 13 for annual salaries):
- Butcher: 4020 francs
- Electrician: 4200 francs
- Florist: 3700 francs
- Hairdresser: 3600 francs
- Kiosk rep: 3800 francs
- Optician (certified): 4760 francs
- Pharmacist: 3900 francs
Despite the pressure from discounters, the Swiss government continues to endorse the system of apprenticeships. Going through a rigorous program for no less than four years is a sustainable investment for any employee. Because a solid education and a set of valuable trade skills are the foundation of a successful career. Finally, compared to other countries which lack apprenticeships and thus have large unskilled workforces, Switzerland's model has allowed to maintain a low unemployment rate.
"So how much do you make?", you might wonder. Sorry, but I ain't telling...
(Photo copyright by Keystone)