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Swiss reject world's highest minimum wage in referendum

GENEVA -- Swiss voters overwhelmingly rejected a plan Sunday to create the world's highest minimum wage, siding with government and business leaders worried about the costs to the nation's strong economy.

The vote count by Swiss TV showed 24 of the Alpine nation's 26 cantons (states) rejecting the Swiss trade union's idea of making the minimum wage 22 Swiss francs (US$24.7) per hour, with the tallies still not completed in the populous regions of Bern and Zurich.

The proposed hourly minimum wage of US$25 — which would have been the world's highest — in one of the planet's priciest nations.

Only 23 percent of Swiss voters came out in favor of introducing a minimum wage in Switzerland so high it could pass for mid-management pay elsewhere, the gfs.bern polling institute said in a projection of Sunday's referendum results.

Voters also rejected a multi-billion-dollar deal, a decade in the making, to buy fighter jets from Sweden, while they overwhelmingly supported measures to ban pedophiles from working with children.

Much of the national debate ahead of the referendums, which are held every three months in Switzerland as part of the country's direct democratic system, has focused on the pros and cons of introducing a minimum wage.

The “Decent Salary” initiative insists that at least 22 Swiss francs (US$25, 18 euros) an hour, or 4,000 francs (US$4,515, 3,280 euros) a month, is needed to get by in the wealthy Alpine nation.

Backers of the initiative want Switzerland to go from having no minimum wage to boasting the world's highest, far above the US$7.25 in the United States, 9.43 euros in France, 5.05 euros in Spain and the recently agreed 8.50 euros in Germany, set to take effect next year.

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