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Swiss Voters Reject a $25 Minimum Wage

SWITZERLAND-VOTE-LABOUR-DEFENCE
A man arrives to casts his ballot during a referendum on May 18, 2014 in Bulle, western Switzerland. FABRICE COFFRINI—AFP/Getty Images

The country showed that minimum wage hikes, while generally popular, do have their outer limits

Swiss voters resoundingly rejected a bill on Sunday that would have vaulted the nation’s minimum wage to $25 an hour, the highest wage floor in the world.

The Minimum Wage Initiative, advocated by the Swiss Trades Union Confederation, suffered an overwhelming defeat at the polls, with 76% of Swiss voters opposing the bill. It marks an unusual defeat for a policy that typically polls well the world over.

In the US, 71% of voters back President Barack Obama’s proposal for a minimum wage hike. In Germany, 81% of voters supported a similar proposal from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

But the scale of Switzerland’s proposed hike, vaulting it two times ahead of the most generous minimum wage rate in the world ($10.66 an hour, compliments of Luxembourg), clearly had Swiss voters on edge.

Untitled
Source: OECD

The referendum offers an interesting test case of where in the voters’ mind a wage hike leaves the realm of economic reality and soars into Alpine-high levels of wishful thinking. After all, if the Swiss bill became U.S. law tomorrow, it would require instant wage renegotiations for 620 occupations across the country, all of which pay less than $25 an hour on average. A sampling of those occupations is below.

MinWages
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Workers in jobs ranging from flipping burgers to preparing taxes to writing articles like this one would be vaulted up the pay ladder, but would they be able to keep their jobs along the way?

Swiss voters registered their doubts at the polls on Sunday, effectively setting an outer boundary for public debates on wage floors – $10, yes, but $25? Come back down to earth.

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