Minimum Wage In Switzerland Could Be Upped To $25 An Hour, Believe It Or Not

Big news from Switzerland Sunday: Citizens will vote on a proposal that would see Switzerland have the highest minimum wage in the world. The proposal would set the lowest legal amount of pay-per-hour at 22 Swiss francs — just a below $25 in American money, which is nothing short of eye-popping. For some perspective, a minimum wage-earner working 40 hours per week would be bringing home over $40,000 per year under this Swiss proposal.

This may sound bold and fantastic, especially by American standards, where President Obama's push to raise the federal minimum wage to just over $10 per hour has been met with expected Republican intransigence. Not from all sides, necessarily — the GOP's last presidential nominee just came out for a minimum wage hike, after all — but with congressional Republicans resisting even in the face of broad bipartisan support for an increase, you can tell it's a pretty entrenched refusal.

The arguments that opponents of the Swiss proposal are making wouldn't be unfamiliar to an American audience. The crux of it comes down to elevating costs on employers, and the consequent host of economic problems that American conservatives tend to predict — diminished hiring, lost jobs, a class of "unskilled" workers effectively unemployable at that price, and so forth. Conversely, Swiss trade unionists broadly support the plan as a means to combat the nation's sky-high cost-of-living.

The notion of a $25 minimum wage admittedly seems unfathomably high, when viewed in relation to how U.S. politicians talk about the issue. But the unique conditions of Switzerland's economy do complicate the argument. A whopping 90 percent of Swiss wage-earners make more than that anyways, and when the figure is adjusted to take purchasing power into account, it's only equivalent to about $14 per hour.

That's still very high, far higher than American workers could ever hope for, in the current political climate. But, it's not quite to the staggering level it might appear. It outpaces the minimum wages of Australia, France, and even the infamously wealthy Luxembourg.

It's very unclear whether the proposal will pass the popular vote, or fail, as recent Swiss polls have shown both outcomes within a margin of about four percent. And if it fails, well, we'll never know how it might have turned out. But if it passes, expect the consequences, good or bad, to become a handy political cudgel for American politicians going forward.