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How much do you need to earn in Switzerland to be considered wealthy?

Switzerland is a wealthy country but how much do people need to earn to be considered rich in the country?

How much do you need to earn in Switzerland to be considered wealthy?
1000 Swiss francs note, which was introduced in 2019. Photo by Michele LIMINA / AFP

In Switzerland, the amount of money one needs to make to be considered rich is different for every location.

The Institute for Swiss Economic Policy’s “Swiss Inequality Database” has calculated this number for each Swiss canton.

What exactly does it mean to be rich, and just how much money do you have to earn to be considered among Switzerland’s wealthiest breadwinners? While the desire for wealth and abundance is – to a degree – universal, its definition varies from place to place. This is particularly the case in a country as well off as Switzerland. Yet, there is clear data that shows when an individual is considered to be among the top earners for every canton.

Swiss national average

Households with an annual income of over CHF 97.591 (before taxes) belong to the wealthiest 20 percent in the country, however, it takes an impressive net salary of more than CHF 1.2 million to be among the country’s richest 0.1 percent. In contrast, after taxes, the latter will be left with around CHF 762,866 in their pockets.

French-speaking Switzerland

As with most things in Switzerland, just what income (before tax) makes one rich can vary significantly from canton to canton.

If you’re hoping to be among Romandy’s top earners, you’ll have the most challenging time accumulating wealth in Geneva where a staggering CHF 2.1 million is required to be considered among the canton’s 0.1 per cent uber rich. If you’re shooting for less, say the canton’s top 20 percent, you’ll only need to be earning a “modest” CHF 102,873 and to position yourself somewhere in the middle, at 5 percent, your salary would have to hit CHF 213,761.

Similarly, in Vaud, an income of around CHF 1,2 million will propel you among the 0.1 percent super rich, while a lesser CHF 192,842 and CHF 101,170, will mean you’re in canton’s top 5 and 20 percent earners.

Becoming rich is slightly more attainable in neighbouring Fribourg, and Neuchâtel where incomes of CHF 95,526, and CHF 86,805, respectively, place you within the top 20 percent of earners, and incomes of CHF 158,006 and 148,677 in the top 5 percent. In order to be considered among the cantons’ 0.1 percent, you’ll need an income of CHF 745,507 in Fribourg and CHF 930,015 in Neuchâtel.


Leading the chart in German-speaking Switzerland is Zug where an income (before tax) of CHF 3,7 million will put you in the 0.1 percent of earners. In comparison, Zurich’s super rich average CHF 1,4 million per year. The gap is equally wide when it comes to the top 5 and 20 percent of the cantons’ wealthiest, with Zug’s averages standing at CHF 310,584 and CHF 133,048, while Zurich averages at CHF 205,822 and CHF 109,585.

In Basel-Country and Basel City, you will need to bring home CHF 106,284 and CHF 98,784 to be among the top 20 percent, while the top 0.1 percent make around CHF 1.1 million and 1.8 million. The two Basels highest 5 percent earners bag around CHF 185,288 (Country) and CHF 194,727 (City).

Things look a little brighter in Bern and Aargau with the former’s 0.1 percent income standing at a lesser CHF 730,312. Bern’s chief 5 percent earn CHF 144,412 and its 20 per cent average at CHF 89,150.

The situation is similar in Aargau with its richest earners bringing in some CHF 730,312. The top 20 percent of Aargauers have a salary of around CHF 707,342, with the 5 percent bringing home around CHF 165,682.

Member comments

  1. Would it really be so hard to occasionally include Ticino/Italian speaking Switzerland in your reporting? As a subscriber it is quite annoying.

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For members


What you should know about Switzerland’s banking secrecy

The mere mention of banking secrecy in Switzerland conjures up images of anonymous accounts and illicit cash hidden in vaults. But the reality is quite different.

What you should know about Switzerland's banking secrecy

Swiss bankers have a long reputation of being tight-lipped when it comes to divulging details about their clients’ accounts.

Over the years, however, this practice has become associated with illegal activities ranging from money laundering to tax evasion, which have tarnished Switzerland’s image, earning it the name of a ‘tax haven’ or ‘tax paradise’ where wealthy people stash their undeclared assets.

READ ALSO: Is Switzerland actually a tax haven?

However, under pressure from other countries, Switzerland adopted a tougher stance on foreign account holders in 2016, exchanging information with its foreign counterparts to ensure tax transparency.

This means that a foreign individual, whether residing in Switzerland or abroad, can no longer hide assets in a Swiss bank and hope their own country wouldn’t find out about it.

So, as far as foreigners are concerned, the days of bank secrecy are long gone.

But this practice is still intact for Swiss clients.

‘Client confidentiality’

Rather than calling this practice ‘banking secrecy’, the Swiss refer to it as ‘client confidentiality,” which has long-standing legal basis.

According to the government, this legislation “protects the financial privacy of citizens from unauthorised access by third parties or by the State.”

This is how the government explains it: “Banking secrecy arises from civil law, especially the contractual obligation of the banker to keep the personal information of his or her client confidential. The privacy of the client is also protected by the general provisions of the Swiss Civil Code concerning protection of personality and by the law on data protection. Moreover, under civil law, banking legislation considers the confidentiality of the banker to be a professional obligation, the violation of which is punishable.”

In other words, the bank not only must keep information about its Swiss accounts confidential, but could actually be punished if it divulges it.

OPINION: Switzerland’s respect for privacy has benefits but it also harms the country

Challenges to the law

Some Swiss politicians are speaking out against this long-standing practice.

“Now is the time to abolish banking secrecy in Switzerland,” according to Tobias Vögeli, president of the Young Green Liberals.

He argues that changing the law requiring banks to maintain confidentiality about their clients’ financial affairs would be “an effective instrument against tax evasion.”

His party will file a motion in the parliament to this effect in the near future.

However, this drastic change is not likely to happen — not only have some MPs already voiced their opposition to it — but the law provides for exemptions to bank secrecy.

“Numerous provisions of civil law, debt collection and bankruptcy law, criminal law, administrative criminal law, and mutual assistance in criminal matters provide for exceptions to banking secrecy,” the government says.

Accordingly, it can be lifted against the client’s will if ordered by court: “The Swiss financial center has comprehensive mechanisms at its disposal to defend against assets originating from criminal offenses. By international standards, the Swiss rules are very strict.»

In conclusion, if you are a Swiss citizen, your right to ‘financial privacy’ is guaranteed.

If, on the other hand you are a foreign national, your assets will be declared to your country of origin. 

READ ALSO: What can a Swiss bank demand of a foreign client?