Although some U.S. cities, counties, and states have chosen to increase local and regional minimum wages, the federal minimum wage has remained static at $7.25 since 2009. While that might sound low on its own, comparing it to the minimum pay rate in other countries can cause it to seem downright insignificant.
Case in point: voters in Geneva, Switzerland recently approved the highest minimum wage in the world at 23 Swiss francs (or about $25) an hour. Geneva is the second-largest city in Switzerland as well as the most international city in Europe (it’s the headquarters for the United Nations, and more than 40% of its population comes from other countries),
The country of Switzerland does not have a minimum wage, and voters declined to establish one in 2014. In fact, Geneva voters turned down the proposition of a set minimum wage twice in the last decade before giving this one a “yes.”
Experts say the COVID-19 pandemic made the wealth gap more evident, prompting 58% of voters to decide in favor of the initiative. Geneva is the third of Switzerland’s 26 cantons to do so.
Mercer’s 26th annual Cost of Living Survey ranks Geneva as No. 9 on the list of the most expensive places to live in 2020, up from number 13 in 2019. Recent research shows that more than 90% of Geneva’s inhabitants live in rented accommodations. The cost of monthly rent for a typical two-bedroom apartment in Geneva costs 3,000 francs (approximately $3280 in U.S. dollars) or higher.
The new minimum wage means workers will earn at least 4,086 francs ($4,470) a month for a full-time workweek, which is 41 hours in Switzerland. Comparatively, the average American needs to earn at least $21.21 per hour to afford a typical two-bedroom apartment.
Australia currently has the highest national minimum wage at 19.84 Australian dollars per hour, which converts to about $14.21 in U.S. dollars. Geneva’s new minimum wage will go into effect on November 1.
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