GENEVA (AP) — Swiss voters overwhelmingly rejected a referendum proposal Sunday to create the world’s highest minimum wage, according to Swiss TV projections.
The idea of creating the world’s highest minimum wage of 22 Swiss francs ($24.70) per hour was criticized by government and business leaders as likely to drive Switzerland’s high costs even higher. Swiss TV said that the referendum was rejected in 24 of 26 cantons, with vote counting still not completed in Bern and Zurich.
The Federal Council was expected to hold a news conference shortly to announce official results.
The proposal would have eclipsed the existing highest minimum wages in force elsewhere in Europe. Trade unions backed it as a way of fighting poverty in a country that, by some measures, features the world’s highest prices and most expensive cities. But opinion polls indicated that most voters sided with government and business leaders, who argued it would cost jobs and erode economic competitiveness.
Switzerland currently has no minimum wage, but the median hourly wage is about 33 francs ($37) an hour.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which adjusts figures for spending power, lists the highest current minimum wage as Luxembourg’s at $10.66 an hour, followed by France at $10.60, Australia at $10.21, Belgium at $9.97, and the Netherlands at $9.48. The U.S. wage, an adjusted $7.11 down from the actual $7.25 rate, came tenth on the list.
Adjusted for its high prices, the OECD said Switzerland’s wage proposal would have represented about $14 an hour based on a 42-hour work week.
Voters also faced three other citizen-inspired referendums Sunday. If passed, these would provide the Swiss Air Force with 22 of Saab’s new Gripen fighter jets; impose a lifetime ban on convicted pedophiles working with children; and amend the constitution to support more family doctors in rural areas.
Swiss TV said partial vote tallies showed voters were narrowly defeating the plan to spend 3.1 billion francs ($3.5 billion) for the jets, but approving by wide margins the pedophile child-employment ban and medical reform measures.
Referendums are a regular feature of democracy in Switzerland, which features a weak central government and strong state governments.