Swiss cast ballots on world's highest minimum wage

May 18, 2014
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In this picture taken May 1, 2014, supporters of the Trade Union Federation, UNIA, demand on placards a monthly minimum wage in Basel, Switzerland. In a nation of mostly haves and have-mores, Swiss voters head to the polls Sunday, May 18, 2014, to decide on a trade union’s proposal that would create a new nationwide minimum wage and set it at 22 Swiss francs (US dollar 24.70) an hour _ the world’s highest. Banner reads "Good work. Minimum wage. Now!" (AP Photo/Keystone, Patrick Straub)

GENEVA (AP) — Switzerland's citizens voted Sunday on whether to create the world's highest minimum wage of 22 Swiss francs ($24.70) an hour.

If passed, the Swiss would more than double the existing highest minimum wages in force elsewhere in Europe. Results are expected later Sunday.

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.

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.