Alas, the Swiss Have Rejected the World’s Highest Minimum Wage

A blog about business and economics.
May 19 2014 10:31 AM

Alas, the Swiss Have Rejected the World’s Highest Minimum Wage

This man's countrymen declined to be lab rats in a very cool economics experiment.

Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images

Over the weekend, Swiss voters overwhelmingly rejected a referendum that would have created the world’s highest nationwide minimum wage, with 76.3 percent of them siding against the measure. The failed effort would have set the country's pay floor at 22 francs per hour, which translates to $25 using market exchange rates, or about $14 adjusted for purchasing power, according to Bloomberg.

And frankly, I’m kind of bummed. As I’ve written here before, one reason we should all be at least a little wary of efforts to push the minimum up to $15 in places like Seattle is that there isn’t a whole lot of historical precedent, either here in America or abroad. According to the OECD, Luxembourg currently has the world’s highest minimum wage, adjusted for purchasing power, at $10.70 per hour.


With it's enviably low 3.2 percent unemployment rate, Switzerland would have been a pretty safe place to test-run something more ambitious. After all, you're talking about a generally high-pay country—only a tenth of Swiss workers earn less than the proposed minimum—where, even with some job losses, you'd still have a remarkably robust labor market. Alas, it's not to be. The economics profession can only mourn.

Jordan Weissmann is Slate's senior business and economics correspondent.


Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Republicans Like Scott Walker Are Building Campaigns Around Problems That Don’t Exist

How Can We Investigate Potential Dangers of Fracking Without Being Alarmist?

Hidden Messages in Corporate Logos

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Chief Justice John Roberts Says $1,000 Can’t Buy Influence in Congress. Looks Like He’s Wrong.

My Year as an Abortion Doula       

  News & Politics
The World
Sept. 16 2014 11:56 AM Iran and the U.S. Are Allies Against ISIS but Aren’t Ready to Admit It Yet
Business Insider
Sept. 16 2014 10:17 AM How Jack Ma Founded Alibaba
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 16 2014 8:00 AM The Wall Street Bombing: Low-Tech Terrorism in Prohibition-era New York
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
Sept. 16 2014 12:05 PM Slim Pickings at the Network TV Bazaar Three talented actresses in three terrible shows.
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 12:01 PM More Than 3 Million Told the FCC What They Think About Net Neutrality. Why Hasn't Obama?
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 16 2014 7:30 AM A Galaxy of Tatooines
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.