The interior minister, Ruth Dreifuss, has called on unions to campaign tirelessly for equal pay for women.
Addressing the construction and industry union congress in Lucerne on Friday, Dreifuss said they should not give up, despite a recent ruling by the Federal Court rejecting a claim for pay equality.
"This unacceptable decision by the Federal Court must not discourage us," Dreifuss told the congress.
The minister praised union efforts to raise salary levels, saying a well-organised campaign was the best defence against what she termed "the new poverty".
She said it was unacceptable that some businesses and branches of industry were effectively making the state pay their wage costs through social security handouts. Businesses must be reminded of their social responsibility, she said.
In her speech, Dreifuss also spoke out in favour of a flexible retirement policy. She said it was wrong that those people employed in the most physically demanding jobs should not be able to retire early.
swissinfo with agencies