Swiss Discard What Could Have Been World’s Highest Minimum Wage at $25/Hr

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | May 19, 2014 4:11 PM EST

Swiss voters have overwhelmingly voted against a proposed hourly $US25 ($A27) minimum wage which could have been the highest minimum wage the world over.

"This is a great success,'' Hans-Ulrich Bigler, director of the Swiss trade association, told SRF. "This is a clear endorsement by the people for the economy and the system to negotiate the wages between employer and employee.''

Trade unions and opposition groups argued the figure would enable a Swiss maintain a decent living in the country, already considered the highest in the world in terms of cost of living.

Government and employers group have to thank the populace for realising the potential ill effects of such a huge hourly minimum wage. Companies would leave Switzerland to shift operations to neighbouring countries because labour is cheaper, they campaigned. Switzerland's tourism sector would likewise suffer.

"If the initiative had been accepted, without doubt that would have led to job cuts, particularly in remote and structurally weaker regions," Swiss Economy Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann said at a news conference. "The best remedy against poverty is work."

Switzerland has no minimum wage, but the median hourly wage is 33 francs ($37) per hour. Pay in the Alpine nation is set by individual employment contracts or collective bargaining agreements.

"A fixed salary has never been a good way to fight the problem," Schneider-Ammann added.

The minimum wage proposal was rejected by 76.3 per cent of Swiss voters.

According to the AP, citing data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the highest current minimum wage are Luxembourg's at $10.66 an hour, followed by France at $10.60, Australia at $10.21, Belgium at $9.97 and The Netherlands at $9.48.

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