Swiss trade unions sound alarm about rising cost of living

Prices in Switzerland are on the rise, albeit less drastically than in the EU and the US. © Keystone / Christian Beutler

Trade unions say middle- and lower-income workers in Switzerland are facing a “shock” in 2022, with wages unable to offset rising inflation and health insurance costs.

This content was published on April 20, 2022 - 19:07

With inflation currently over 2% in Switzerland, the cost of living is going up, and workers need a salary boost to offset this, said the country’s biggest trade union group on Wednesday.

The Swiss Trade Union Federation added that an expected rise in health insurance premiums for next year – some are expecting a 10% hike, but rates are yet to be announced – will hit middle-income households hardest.

According to estimates by the group, a family with two children could see purchasing power drop by CHF3,000 ($3,165) for the year (the average after-tax income of Swiss households in 2019 was just under CHF86,000).

As the salaries of high-earners rise, and as cantonal finances have bounced back into the black after the pandemic, the situation is however “favourable” for wage boosts, the group wroteExternal link.

It said every full-time worker should be getting at least CHF4,000 per month. Switzerland does not have a nationwide minimum wage requirement.

Responding to these demands, the chief economist of the Swiss Employers’ Association said that salary increases across the board – i.e. in “all sectors and businesses” – was not possible.

Internationally active businesses for example are under international pressure, Simon Wey told public broadcaster SRF. And as such “they cannot just raise wages” here in Switzerland.

Health insurance costs

With the anticipated rise in health insurance rates on the horizon, the unions also called on the government to act to ensure nobody spends more than 10% of their salary on premiums.

Various initiatives have been mooted over the past years to slow the steady inflation here, including efforts to cap the price of generic drugs and to restrict the direct access of patients to specialist doctors.

The anticipated rise this year comes as the healthcare sector gets back to normal after the pandemic – a time when many non-urgent operations were cancelled and premiums decreased for the first time in 14 years.

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