How much do you make? The Swiss and their salaries

Swiss Salary (Keystone)

"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.

READ
A Primer on Switzerland’s Tax System

"So how much do you make?", you might wonder. Sorry, but I ain't telling...

(Photo copyright by Keystone)

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Dimitri Burkhard

Founder, Editor-in-Chief at Newly Swissed GmbH
As the founder, editor and community manager of Newly Swissed, Dimitri owns the strategic vision. He is passionate about storytelling and is a member of the Swiss Travelwriters Club.

Dimitri loves discovering new trends and covers architecture, design, start-ups and tourism.
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