Switzerland is a popular emigration destination for many EU citizens. This is mainly due to the good earning opportunities and the low taxes. In return, however, higher living costs must be taken into account than in the rest of Europe. Life in Switzerland is expensive.

The national currency of Switzerland: the Swiss franc
Wage levels in Switzerland are well above the EU average

Above-average wage level

Switzerland has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. According to the Federal Statistical Office, the median wage for a full-time position in 2016 was CHF 6,502 gross per month.

The highest wages are paid by the pharmaceutical industry (CHF 9,835), followed by financial services (CHF 9,742), IT (CHF 8,900) and insurance (CHF 8,762).

On the other hand, the sectors with the lowest salaries are the worst. 10% of employees earned less than CHF 4,313 per month in 2016. The sectors with the lowest wages include retail trade (CHF 4,798), hotels and restaurants (CHF 4,337) and other personal services (CHF 4,076). This includes the employees of a laundry, a fitness studio or a hairdressing salon.

At the other end of the spectrum are the best paid employees with more than CHF 11,406 per month.

The financial sector in Switzerland is paying very high salaries
The financial sector in Switzerland is paying very high salaries

Zurich earns the most. The cities of Geneva and Basel are also above average. At CHF 4,996, the average earnings are lowest in Ticino.

The pay gap between women and men fell minimally in 2016. In 2016, women earned 14.6 percent less in the private sector than men and 12.5 percent in the public sector.

One third profits from bonus payments

About one in three employees received a bonus in addition to their annual salary. The average amount of the bonus was CHF 9,033. The amount depends mainly on the economic sector and the responsibilities of the employee. As expected, bonuses in the banking sector are massively higher than in other sectors. For example, in 2016 it was well over CHF 100,000. While senior retail management, for example, only received CHF 15,267 in bonuses. Positions without management responsibility receive lower bonuses than management, with an average of CHF 3,972 paid out.

Lowest minimum wage for taxi drivers

A taxi driver's monthly minimum wage is the lowest in the country
A taxi driver’s monthly minimum wage is the lowest in the country

But not all sectors earn above-average wages. The minimum wage in Switzerland is CHF 4,000, and there are some professions that earn less than the minimum wage. For example, maintenance cleaners receive CHF 3422, animal keepers CHF 3500 and farmers CHF 3800.

The worst drivers are the taxi drivers. Their monthly minimum wage is just CHF 3200 – from the second year of employment onwards. Since 2006, wages have fallen by more than 15 percent.

The 3-country comparison Switzerland, Germany and Austria

According to OECD data, employees in Switzerland earn about twice as much in nominal terms as in neighbouring countries in terms of average wages. High wages are offset by high prices and the cost of living, but even after taking price differences into account, wages in Switzerland are still about 40% higher than in neighbouring countries.

If one compares the same occupation in the border triangle of Switzerland, Germany and Austria, the enormous wage differences become clear.

Job/Industry Switzerland: annual average (gross)

 

Germany:
annual average (gross)
 
Austria:
annual average (gross)
 
Assistant medical doctor
82’424

 

48’384

 

23’076

 

Civil engineer 86’884

 

41’369

 

43’246

 

Electrician 64’832

 

26’849

 

28’477

 

HR Manager 124’747

 

28’000

 

40’615

 

IT project manager 120’742

 

40’102

 

50’230

 

Chef 67’695

 

43’523

 

23’076

 

Production manager 88’147

 

62’173

 

49’418

Source and other professions: https://www.lohnanalyse.ch/ch/loehne.html

Up to 60% higher rent is paid in Switzerland than the EU average
Up to 60% higher rent is paid in Switzerland than the EU average

Price comparison Switzerland with EU

Switzerland is a high-price island, which means that shopping in a Swiss supermarket is massively more expensive than in neighbouring countries. The price of meat in Switzerland is a whopping 152 percent higher than the EU average. Switzerland is 34 percent more expensive for clothes and 17 percent more expensive for shoes.

Exorbitant rents

Rents are also many times higher than the EU average. On average, you pay around 60 percent more for a rental apartment in Switzerland than in Europe. The most expensive plasters are Zurich and Geneva.

Vocabulary on the subject of salaries

Swiss German English
Wie viel verdiensch du? How much do you earn?
Ich verdiene nöd so viel I don’t earn that much
Ich bi zfriede mit mim Lohn I am happy with my salary
Gits das Jahr än Bonus? Will there be a bonus this year?
Lohnerhöchig Salary increase
D’Schwiz isch tüür Switzerland is expensive

Swiss-German speakers have better chances finding a job in Switzerland

As a foreign employee, it makes sense to at least understand Swiss German when looking for a job. Anyone who speaks it will increase their chances on the labour market and in wage negotiations. So sign up for our online course today.

How much money does one really earn in Switzerland?
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