Fair Wages – The Great Unspoken Issue



In Switzerland, it is still considered inappropriate to discuss wages. Data on workers' average monthly income is difficult to obtain because no reliable statistics are available and living costs and salaries vary across each canton.

The taboo surrounding wages and the lack of guaranteed equal pay for male and female workers suggests that there is still much work to be done. Many questions remain unanswered - for example:

What constitutes a fair or unfair (ie, extraordinarily high) salary? What qualifies as exploitation? Further, recent trends suggest that young professionals are being exploited. For example, graduates in certain cantons (eg, Basel City) receive no monthly wages during their traineeships. Meanwhile, many directors and CEOs of big companies earn over Sfr1 million a year.

Wage capping

The Swiss authorities are debating whether to cap the annual salaries of CEOs of government-owned corporations. Some of the highest earners include:

the CEO of Swisscom, a Swiss telecoms corporation (more than Sfr1.5 million a year); the CEO of SBB, the national public transport corporation (more than Sfr1 million a year); and the CEO of Swiss Post, the public mail and parcel service (slightly less than Sfr1 million a year). Given that a federal government member has an annual salary of approximately Sfr450,000, most people would consider the above salaries excessive and unfair. Remarkably, the average research manager or university director earns between Sfr250,000 and Sfr350,000 a year, while most CEOs in the financial sector earn at least Sfr500,000 a year.

These numbers prove that financial sector salaries are significantly higher than science sector salaries. While management positions in both fields require highly qualified workers with degrees, the cause of such a significant wage gap is unclear. One explanation could be the comparatively high stress levels in the financial sector.

'Fat cat' regulations

The 'fat cat' regulations of 2014 apply only to stock-quoted companies (for further details please see "'Fat cat' regime - government proposes regulation of top-level management compensation packages").

Under this regime, additional forms of remuneration include:

loans; bail; release claims; and equity...

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