Switzerland votes not to cap the boss's pay

A man casts his ballot at a polling station in central Basel during elections in Switzerland.

In the U.S., some chief executives get more than a thousand times the average worker pay at their companies. In Switzerland, home to some of Europe's highest paid CEOs, the votes have just been counted on a measure that would limit executive compensation there to just 12 times what everyone else makes.  The verdict?

It failed pretty convincingly. Sixty-five percent of Swiss voters said no to salary limits, just 35 percent said yes to what was known as the 1:12 initiative. Despite widespread worry among the Swiss over the growing gap between rich and poor, the BBC's Imogen Foulkes says voters ultimately agreed with the arguments against 1:12.

"The key arguments were this measure is too restrictive, it will really hamper Swiss business, it could deter foreign investment and foreign talent from coming to Switzerland, and here we are -- one of Europe's healthiest economies, one of the only healthy economies in Europe at the moment," Foulkes says. "If it's not broken, let's not try to fix it."

While the 1:12 initiative was defeated at the ballot box, that doesn't mean executives in Switzerland are free to seek any the highest compensation they can imagine without limits. In March, Swiss voters overwhelmingly came out in favor of a law that banned so-called golden parachutes and placed strict limits on bonuses. And, Foulkes says the 1:12 vote doesn't put the issue of income inequality to rest.

"A few months from now, we have yet another referendum, and that will be on guaranteeing a minimum wage. So concerns about too high salary, and about a widening wage gap -- which Switzerland, like the U.S., has been seeing over the past few years. Those concerns remain."

 

About the author

Imogen Foulkes is a reporter with the BBC.

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