Geneva lake
Geneva. (Getty)
  • The canton of Geneva, Switzerland, voted to introduce a minimum wage of 23 Swiss francs an hour, close to R420.
  • This means full-time workers will earn at least 45,264 Swiss francs a year – the equivalent of just about R820,000.
  • Minimum wage in South Africa is around R20 pr hour for many types of workers.
  • Visit Business Insider SA's homepage for more stories.

Voters in the Swiss canton of Geneva have voted to introduce a minimum wage of 23 Swiss francs (the equivalent of around R420) an hour — making it the highest in the world.

Just over 58% of voters in the canton — an administrative region that includes the city of Geneva — voted for that minimum wage, according to government data published September 28.

They were asked to answer yes or no to the question: "Do you accept the popular initiative '23 francs is a minimum'?"

Paying workers the new wage, based on Switzerland's average 41-hour working week, would give workers a minimum monthly salary of 3,772 Swiss francs (R68,000) and minimum annual salary of 45,264 Swiss francs (R820,000), according to Business Insider's calculations.

South Africa's minimum wage for many types of workers comes in at around R20 per hour. The US federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour equals around R120, and the UK's minimum of £8.72 per hour translates to R190.

The new minimum wage will go into effect on November 1, and will benefit about 6% of the commune's workers, CNN cited Geneva State Counselor Mauro Poggia as saying. Switzerland does not have a national minimum wage — that is decided by individual cantons instead.

As of 2019, Australia paid the highest national minimum wage, equivalent to a little under R210 an hour, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The city of Geneva, the capital of the canton, has long been one of the most expensive in the world, according to multiple rankings. The Economist Intelligence Unit reported earlier this year that one kilogram of bread costs an average of around R90, and a women's haircut costs about R1,500 in the city.

The vote to introduce a minimum wage followed the coronavirus pandemic hitting its retail and travel sector hard, according to The Guardian

Michel Charrat, the president of a group that supports workers in the French-Swiss border, told the newspaper that the pandemic "has shown that a certain section of the Swiss population cannot live in Geneva."

He said paying people at least 4,000 Swiss francs a month "is the minimum to not fall below the poverty line and find yourself in a very difficult situation."

Switzerland entered a recession in the third quarter of 2020 due to economic losses in the coronavirus pandemic.

Prior to this year's vote, Geneva voted twice — in 2011 and 2014 — to reject introducing a minimum wage to the canton.

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