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How much more do France-based cross-border workers earn in Switzerland?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
How much more do France-based cross-border workers earn in Switzerland?
A picture taken on February 2, 2021 in Lausanne's harbour shows French cross-border workers waiting for the arrival of the CGN boat, used as shuttle between Lausanne and Thonon, France. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Those cross-border workers who live in the French regions closest to the Swiss border can earn far more working in Switzerland than they would do working in France.

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Currently, just over 200,000 commuters from France are employed in Switzerland — predominantly in the Lake Geneva region, and to a lesser extent in Basel and Jura as well.

The main reason comes down to money: French companies simply can’t match the salaries these people are earning in Switzerland.

READ ALSO: Why French cross-border workers choose to work in Switzerland 

A recent study by the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) shows the difference in salaries earned by workers in Switzerland and those in neighbouring France. 

Swiss pay is higher than in other border regions

In an annex called ‘Salaries in border areas’, which analysed wages in all of France’s border regions, INSEE  pointed out that “gaps in earned income are particularly high near Switzerland. In the departments closest to the metropolises of Basel and Geneva, the ratio between cross-border and non-cross-border employees is 2.58 and 2.72, respectively.”

These wages are quite a bit higher than those paid to the French working in other border countries: on the borders with Monaco and Germany, for instance, they earn ‘only’ 1.51 and 1.47 more, respectively, than they would in similar jobs France; the gap is lower for the departments located on the Belgian border.

This means, basically, that French workers from Haut-Rhin earn more than a double in Basel, and those from Haute-Savoie and Ain make nearly three times as much in Geneva as they would in their home regions.

While this gap is certainly beneficial for the cross-border workers, it highlights obvious income disparities between the ‘frontaliers’ and those working in France.

As the Tribune de Genève put it, the INSEE study highlights “socio-economic inequalities in neighbouring France between employees paid in francs and those paid in euros due to the ‘Swiss border effect’.” 

But there are other negative effects of this pay disparity as well.

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Worker shortage, high rents

The fact that so many frontaliers opt to work in Switzerland — more than 44 percent of French nationals who live near the border are employed in Geneva —  is impacting the regional economy in Haute-Savoie and Ain.

One effect is that the ‘exodus’ of local populations to Switzerland depletes essential workforce (such as in healthcare sector, for instance) in these French regions.

Another impact is that Geneva’s high prices are ‘spilling over’ to the neighbouring French communities.

Cross-border commuters are held responsible for the increase in rents in communities  that lie along the Swiss-French border.

According to Le Matin daily newspaper, “prohibitive 'Parisian' rents are displayed in the windows of the numerous real estate agencies in Saint-Julien-en-Genevois, a small town on the Swiss border,” as well as in other nearby communities where the cross-border workers live. 

The frontaliers “push prices of housing upwards,” putting those who work in France and are paid in euros "at a great disadvantage," the newspaper reported. 

READ ALSO: How cross-border workers are driving up rent prices around Geneva 

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