Swiss workers could soon be making the highest minimum wage in the world if a national vote Sunday goes their way.
Labor unions have been campaigning for months to win public backing for a minimum hourly wage of 22 Swiss francs, or nearly $25.
The Swiss government and business leaders have warned that the initiative would destroy jobs, hurt lower skilled employees and make it harder for young people and others to enter the workforce.
“The proposed statutory minimum wage would be the highest in the world, by some margin,” the Swiss economics ministry said in a statement. “Consequently, those who would suffer most from the initiative are those it is supposed to benefit.”
Switzerland is a wealthy country, enjoying above average rates of growth and employment and relatively short working hours.
The average household has net disposable income of about $30,000, compared with the average of $23,000 in the OECD, a group of 34 of the world’s strongest economies.
But OECD figures also show a considerable gap between rich and poor — the top 20% of the population earn nearly five times as much as the bottom 20% — and anger at growing inequality has been increasing.
Unlike many advanced economies, Switzerland does not have a statutory national minimum wage. Pay is set in negotiations between companies and individuals, or with employee representatives — sometimes across industrial sectors.