May 18, 2014 9:14 am

Switzerland votes against world’s highest minimum wage

Voters cast their ballots in Bern, Switzerland Sunday May 18, 2014. Swiss voters were casting ballots Sunday on a nationwide referendum to introduce the world’s highest minimum wage of 22 Swiss francs (US $24.70) an hour.

(AP Photo/Keystone,Peter Klaunzer)

GENEVA – The Swiss have rejected a referendum proposal to create the world’s highest minimum wage in 24 of 26 cantons, according to Swiss TV.

The idea of creating the world’s highest minimum wage was criticized by government and business leaders as likely to drive Switzerland’s high costs even higher.

The Federal Council was expected to hold a news conference shortly to announce official results.

If passed, the Swiss would more than double the existing highest minimum wages in force elsewhere in Europe.

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Trade unions sponsored the wage proposal as way of fighting poverty in a country that, by some measures, features some of the world’s highest prices. But opinion polls indicated that most voters side with government and business leaders, who have 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 lists the highest current minimum wage as Luxembourg’ 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. minimum wage of $7.25 came tenth on the list. The OECD adjusted figures for spending power.

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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.

Referendums are a regular feature of democracy in Switzerland, which features a weak central government and strong state governments.

© The Canadian Press, 2014

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