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Swiss reject world's highest minimum wage

Citizens of the most expensive country in the world vote against a proposal to set the minimum wage at $4,500 per month.

Last updated: 18 May 2014 21:30
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Swiss citizens have voted against a proposal to introduce the world's highest minimum wage, according to first projections.

About 77 percent of the voters rejected the proposal on Sunday that, if passed, would have seen the minimum wage set at $25 an hour.

"It is a clear vote by the people, a vote of trust in the economy," Hans-Ulrich Bigler, director of the Swiss trades association, told Swiss television.

Sunday's referendum was the latest in a string of initiatives to try to address the country's widening income gap.

Anger has grown over the wages of Swiss executives, which have ballooned while those of low-income workers have lagged.

Supporters of the proposed minimum wage, which corresponds to a monthly salary of just under $4,500, said it would help smooth out salary inequalities and ensure that a person working full-time could live decently.

But critics said the measure would hurt competitiveness and lead to job cuts, harming the low-income workers that it was designed to help.

'Pay the price'

Florian Weber, a Swiss restaurant owner, told Al Jazeera that customers would also have to pay the price for a set minimum wage.

"The question that we ask ourselves is, if the customer would be ready to pay the price because when we have to pay 4,000 Swiss Francs [just under $4,500], we have to raise the prices for a simple coffee to maybe six Swiss Francs [just under $7]," Weber said.

Switzerland does not currently have a nation-wide minimum wage. Pay is determined by individual employment contracts or via collective bargaining agreements, some of which also set industry-specific minimum wages.

Swiss voters overwhelmingly backed a referendum last year to give shareholders a binding say over executive pay, but turned down a proposal to cap the salaries of top executives at 12 times that of a company's lowest wage.

The high cost of food, rent and insurance makes Switzerland one of the most expensive countries in the world to live in.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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