What if having a minimum wage job meant...making a living?
That’s the question posed to voters in the Swiss city of Geneva, who approved a measure that will introduce a minimum wage of $25 (23 Swiss francs) per hour. Within the next month, every worker in the city, from the tellers at Credit Suisse to the fry cooks at McDonald’s (Cheeseburger Royal, anyone?) will be eligible to earn roughly $4,100/month while following its typical 41-hour workweek. This new rate would give the city the highest minimum wage in the world — more than triple the $7.25/hour federal minimum in the US.
Why does Geneva need such a high minimum income?
This is the third attempt in Geneva to raise its minimum wage — measures had been put forth in both 2011 and 2014 to no avail. The main factor driving calls for a higher minimum is Switzerland’s extremely high cost of living. Even a Big Mac in the Toblerone zone will cost you $7.10, the highest price in the world. And costs in Geneva are even steeper than the country’s average — it was ranked as the second-most expensive city in the world and the most expensive for food.
And the pandemic made things worse
The COVID crisis shut down businesses for months, leading to unemployment and financial distress that highlighted the city’s poverty problem. Reports of thousands queued in mile-long lines for food circulated. Factor in Switzerland’s lack of a federal minimum wage and the need for a living wage in one of the country’s most expensive cities became an issue citizens couldn’t ignore. While the wage increase is only expected to benefit roughly 6% of Geneva’s workers, more than two-thirds of its voters approved the measure. The recent change of heart among Swiss voters may be an encouraging sign for US residents as more of our own high cost of living cities enact legislation raising the local minimum wage.