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Swiss wages second highest in Europe

Swiss workers are among the best paid in Europe Keystone Archive

Switzerland's image as a high-wage nation has been confirmed by a new study.

This content was published on February 23, 2002 - 11:03

However, the study also found that Switzerland has one of the largest wage disparities between high and low paid workers in Europe - ranging from SFr18-735 ($10.60-$432.86) per hour.

The new European survey by the London-based Federation of European Employers has found that only Danish workers earn more than the Swiss.

Also, Swiss women continue to lag behind their male workmates, with salaries of around 72 per cent of men, and a participation rate that is almost half that of other Europeans.

Unequal societies

The survey shows only countries such as Russia - where the top ten per cent earn nine times that of the lowest ten percent - have more unequal societies than Switzerland.

Robin Chater, report author and statistician said disparities in Swiss wages are due largely to the fact that the country hosts some of the world's most successful financial-services employers.

"Switzerland ranks as one of the most hierarchical societies in Europe, possibly not as bad as Italy and Eastern Europe," Chater said.

Chater noted that the differences in wages are also due to the nature of banking, insurance, and investment industries - which employ 60-percent of the Swiss workforce.

"If you look at the main factor in making up pay, it's the size of the organisation, its sophistication and its sector - the financial sector is a naturally high-paying sector."

Higher wages

Switzerland is also unlike many European countries in that it provides its lowest-paid workers with relatively high wages - despite having no statutory minimum level.

"You don't have a statutory minimum wage as you have say in France and the UK, but you do have quite a lot of collective agreements and you do have a welfare system which gives fairly generous benefits."

"That, of course, means to attract people into employment, you need to have high minimum pay."

Bosses paid well

The survey found the salary range for bosses is SFr195 -735 per hour. The Swiss work week averages 42 hours.

The survey covered 39 countries, focusing on around 30 "standard jobs" across small, medium and large businesses.

"There are a lot of things about Switzerland that are attractive as an economy - low crime-rates, low unemployment, low inflation-rates, very low strike-rates, high levels of productivity and of course personal taxation is only around the middle-range for Europe.

"So there are lots of advantages in moving into Switzerland."

One aspect of the employment market that affects the trend is the pool of women not actively involved in paid work.

"Although the Swiss spend a great deal on education, only 56-57 per cent of women are actually engaged in the employed workforce and that could be significantly higher," Chater said.

"In Scandinavia it's as high as 75 per cent."

by Vanessa Mock and Jacob Greber

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