Swiss reject $25 per hour minimum wage

Income inequality may be a big deal to many in the US and Europe, but the Swiss people have taken a stand against radicalism to try and fix it.

At issue; whether Switzerland should adopt the highest minimum wage in the world at $25 an hour.

Following the closing of the polls, a TV network projection showed that 77% of voters rejected the union-backed measure.


"It is a clear vote by the people, a vote of trust in the economy," Hans-Ulrich Bigler, director of the Swiss trades association, told Swiss television.

Sunday's vote is the latest in a slew of initiatives being put to voters to try to address the widening income gap in the generally egalitarian country.

Economically liberal Switzerland does not currently have a nationwide minimum wage. Pay is determined by individual employment contracts or via collective bargaining agreements, some of which also set industry-specific minimum wages.

Popular votes have thrown up surprises before, most recently in February when the Swiss unexpectedly voted by a razor thin majority to curb immigration from the European Union, ignoring warnings from business that such a move would hurt the economy.

Anger has grown over the wages of executives in Switzerland which have ballooned while those of low-income workers lag.

Supporters of the proposed minimum wage, which corresponds to a monthly paycheck of 4,000 francs, say it would help smooth out salary inequalities and ensure a person working full time can live decently.

But critics say the measure would hurt competitiveness and lead to job cuts harming precisely the low-income workers it is designed to help.

Voters overwhelmingly backed a referendum last year to give shareholders a binding say over executive pay, but turned down a proposal to cap the salaries of top executives at 12 times that of a company's lowest wage.

It appears that logic and pragmatism won out over emotionalism. This is not a turn to the right by the Swiss but rather a call for prudence and gradualism when trying to close the pay equality gap.

The Greens and socialists also backed the measure and you can be sure they'll return to the ballot with more radical ideas about change. Meanwhile, the practical Swiss will continue enjoying  a relatively high standard of living thanks to their pragmatism and good sense.

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