The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Social partners interpret wage trends differently

Nominal wages in Switzerland have risen in recent years, the gap between men and women has narrowed and the proportion of low wages has remained stable. The social partners interpret the results of the wage structure survey differently.

In 2022, the median salary for a full-time job in the private and public sector was CHF 6788 gross per month. This means that half of employees earned more, while the other half earned less. This is according to the results of the Swiss Wage Structure Survey conducted by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO), which were published on Tuesday.

According to the survey, one in ten employees received a gross salary of less than 4487 francs. The ten percent of the highest earners earned more than 12,178 francs. According to the FSO, between 2008 and 2022, low and high wages increased more than the wages of the middle class. The wage gap between rich and poor remained largely unchanged. The proportion of low-wage jobs in the overall economy also remained stable compared to previous surveys.

Women earn 9.5 percent less

Meanwhile, the differences in median pay between men and women continued to decrease. In 2022, women earned 6397 francs gross per month, men 7066 francs. The gap was therefore 9.5 percent. That is two percentage points less than four years previously.

The higher the hierarchy level of the job, the greater the gender pay gap. In 2022, women in jobs with a high level of responsibility earned CHF 9565 gross per month, while men at the same level received CHF 11,212, which corresponds to a difference of 14.7 percent. According to the FSO, this figure also decreased.

The wage structure survey is a written survey that has been conducted every two years since 1994 among companies in Switzerland. More than 35,000 companies with around 2.3 million employees took part in the latest study. It serves as a reference for wage negotiations between the social partners, for example.

"Extremely stable situation"

Roland Müller, Director of the Swiss Employers' Association (SAV), spoke of "pleasing findings" and emphasized the "extremely stable wage situation in Switzerland". In view of the many crises during the survey period, this was "not a matter of course". All trends were pointing in the right direction.

According to Müller, there was "hardly any scope" for further wage increases. Company profits have been declining in recent years. The fact that the proportion of low-wage jobs has remained stable in this difficult economic environment is remarkable.

The decreasing pay gap between men and women is also pleasing, said Müller. The remaining gap can be explained to a substantial extent by objectifiable factors. For example, women take more time off work after the birth of a child than men. "To describe this as discriminatory is statistically inadmissible." Nevertheless, there is no way around a better work-life balance.

"A lost decade"

Daniel Lampart, Chief Economist at the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions (SGB), was less satisfied. "Despite the good economic situation, we have to realize that a lost decade is looming for real wages." The higher wages have been eaten up by inflation.

The trade unionist harshly criticized the employers: whereas inflation compensation used to be a matter of course, wage negotiations are now conducted with unprecedented harshness. Employers were no longer committed to ensuring that every wage was more or less enough to live on. "More and more households are struggling to make ends meet."

According to Lampart, there is an urgent need for "good minimum wages", for example for people who work in daycare centers or in long-term care. Apprentice wages also need to be increased. If collective labor agreements cannot be reached, cantonal minimum wages must be enforced.

Employers take a different view: the increasing calls for cantonal minimum wages are completely unfounded, said Müller. It is not up to legislators to pursue social policy via minimum wages.

©Keystone/SDA

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