FAQ: A brief guide to salaries in Switzerland

How much should you be paid in Switzerland? This is often a tough question to answer, because the Swiss are notoriously secretive about their salaries. Unlike many countries, salary ranges or bands arerarelypublishedinjob adverts. For many people, this means that finding a comparable salary is difficult.Lots of people have come to the Switzerlanded! to find out more about Swiss salaries. It’s very hard to give specific answers, because every candidate is different. Even for the same job, different salaries may be offered to different candidates because they are more/less advanced in their careers and may bring different qualities to the job. When reading this guide, bear in mind that these are only broad estimates and that you’ll need to think about your own individual circumstances when determining your market worth and whether a salary is ‘fair’ or not.SALARY GUIDESThere are a number of guidelines published that can give you a good feeling for overall salaries in Switzerland, and that can help you figure out where you sit.Is your salary fair? Consider this.

Here is the Swiss Salarium calculator. The personal wages ‘Salarium’ is an interactive application which allows you to obtain for a specific job (economic branch, region etc) and for a selection of individual characteristics (age, level of education etc.) the following salary information:

  • the gross monthly salary (middle or median value)
  • the salary dispersion (interquartile range)
  • factors influencing the salary (table of salary variations by region, level of education etc.)
  • comparison with personal salary data (total salary based on the same salary components as the median salary)

There is not an exact salary guide for every imaginable position, so you may need to use these figures to get a feeling for salaries overall, then extrapolate to figure out where your salary would fit in on the overall scale.

As a rule, though, Swiss salaries are generous when compared against other countries, so you are unlikely to find yourself moving to a Swiss position for less money than you’re getting currently.


Many people relocating to Switzerland come to work with the big pharma companies in Basel or the banks in Zurich. There have been many threads about salaries in both of these environments:






Just as important as negotiating a good salary is knowing how much of that salary will end up in your pocket at the end of the month. There are several on-line resources that can help you estimate how much tax you’ll pay (it varies depending on which canton you live in) as well as other deductions that will be taken from your pay.

[URL=”http://www.accurity.ch/revenueestimate/”][COLOR=#800080]http://www.accurity.ch/revenueestimate/[/COLOR][/URL] (Note: this looks like it is now restricted to Accurity customers only)


Note that as a foreigner, you’ll pay your tax by quellensteuer, which means your tax payments will be withheld from your paycheque each month. In Switzerland, nothing is ever straightforward as laws vary from canton to canton, but in general, if you earn less than CHF120’000 a year, you’ll pay your tax by quellensteuer and need to do nothing further. If you earn more than CHF120’000 a year, you’ll still pay your tax by quellensteuer, but you’ll also need to file a tax return at the end of the year. If there’s a balance owing either way, you’ll either need to pay it or claim a tax refund.

You can find your Quellensteuer rates here:



[FONT=Verdana]In addition to the tax that is withheld, there are numerous other charges that will come out of your pay.[/FONT]

Here is a sample payslip:

[COLOR=black][FONT=Verdana]Monthly Employee Deductions ItemBase Rate Deduction State Pension (AHV)________________6’500.00_________5.05%_____CH F 328.25[/FONT][/COLOR]
[FONT=Verdana][COLOR=black]Unemployment (ALV)_____________________________________________ _________________ 6’500.00__________1.0%______CHF 65.00[/COLOR][/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana][COLOR=black]Company Pension (BVG)_____________________________________________ _______________4’505.00____________________CHF 243.95[/COLOR][/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana][COLOR=black]Accident Insurance (UVG)_____________________________________________ ______________6’500.00________0.76%______CHF 49.40[/COLOR][/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana][COLOR=black]Sickpay Insurance (KTG)_____________________________________________ _______________6’500.00________1.07%______CHF 69.55[/COLOR][/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana][COLOR=black]Income tax at source____________________________________________ ___________________6’500.00_______13.56%______CHF 881.40[/COLOR][/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana][COLOR=black][B]Total Employee Deductions________________________________________ _______________________________CHF[/B] [B]1’568.00[/B][/COLOR][/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana][COLOR=black]Net Monthly Salary____________________________________________ _____________________________________________[/COLOR][/FONT][B][COLOR=green][FONT=Verdana]CHF 4’932.00[/FONT][/COLOR][/B]

Here are some more threads that explain the various charges on your payslip:



[FONT=Verdana]For most expats working in Switzerland, the only tax you’ll end up paying as a full-time resident in Switzerland is Swiss tax. Americans, on the other hand, remain liable for US tax regardless of where they live in the world. Be sure to calculate the impact of US taxes on your take-home pay. The best guide for understanding US taxation of American expats is here:[/FONT]



[FONT=Verdana]When evaluating your package, you also need to consider any other benefits you are being offered. Many of the bigger companies in Switzerland will provide you with relocation assistance, including temporary housing, moving expenses, language training. For candidates at senior management levels, you may also find that you’re offered schooling for your children at one of the international schools.[/FONT]



[FONT=Verdana]Once you’ve figured out what a reasonable salary is for your role, education, and experience, and once you’ve worked out how much of that salary you’ll be taking home after you’ve paid your taxes, it’s time to decide whether you’ll have enough to live on.[/FONT]

[FONT=Verdana]As a starting point, the [URL=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Median_household_income”]Median Family Income[/URL] is CHF109,236. So you can base your initial assumptions on that. [/FONT]

[FONT=Verdana]There are countless threads about the cost of living in Switzerland, but it basically boils down to this: “It depends.”[/FONT]

[FONT=Verdana]It’s very difficult to make direct comparisons about cost-of-living. If you’re coming from a 3’000sq ft house in Texas, you’re unlikely to be able to afford something similar in Switzerland, because very few people have a 3’000 sq ft home.[/FONT]

[FONT=Verdana]A better question to ask yourself is “could my salary buy the sort of lifestyle I would like to live while living in Switzerland, even if that’s very different from what I’m living today?” Life is always a series of trade-offs, and you’ll need to decide which trade-offs are right for you.[/FONT]



[FONT=Verdana]In closing, this thread should give you all the tools you need to:[/FONT]

[*][FONT=Verdana]Determine the approximate salary for your industry / job[/FONT]
[*][FONT=Verdana]Figure out how much of that salary you’ll take home[/FONT]
[*][FONT=Verdana][FONT=Verdana]Understand what taxes and other costs you’ll have to pay[/FONT][/FONT]
[*][FONT=Verdana][FONT=Verdana]Estimate your cost-of-living[/FONT][/FONT]
[*][FONT=Verdana][FONT=Verdana]Decide whether you can live the lifestyle you want in Switzerland[/FONT]
[/LIST][FONT=Verdana]Please read through all of the material above before asking any questions. Asking a specific question like “How much should I earn as a lab technician with 4 years experience at Roche?” is unlikely to get an answer any more specific than what you can determine for yourself with the tools here, and questions like “I’ve just been offered a salary of CHF100’000 in Zurich – can I live on this?” will get similarly unhelpful answers, because the answer is, “it depends on what you consider living.”[/FONT]

[FONT=Verdana]Once you’ve gone through all of the material here, if you still have a question, [URL=”http://www.englishforum.ch/search.php”]try searching first[/URL]. If that doesn’t get you the answer you need, post it (on a new thread, not this one) and the friendly members of this forum will help out if they can.[/FONT]

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