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Which Country Is Best To Live in: Germany, Austria or Switzerland?

Germany, Austria, and Switzerland are three German-speaking countries in Europe that are leading in rankings for best places to live on the planet. Indeed, when choosing between those, you will have a hard time.

These countries are very similar but also very different, depending on what you are looking at. All of them are great in terms of liveability, culture, and quality of life. They all have outstanding transport infrastructure; economically, all are doing well. Which one is for you depends on your personal preference.

In this guide, we go in-depth on some important aspects of life in all those places, including quality of life, cost of living, salaries, lifestyle, job opportunities, and much more. Sit back and get ready for some hardcore facts.

Pros and cons of living in Germany vs Austria vs Switzerland

1. Germany

Pros

  1. Great employment opportunities for foreign specialists
  2. Simple immigration
  3. Large country – various cities and regions to choose from
  4. Low cost of living when compared to other countries
  5. Very affordable education
  6. High salaries in particular industries and professions
  7. The largest economy in Europe
  8. Home to many world’s biggest companies like Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, Siemens
  9. Low unemployment rates
  10. Free healthcare

Cons

  1. Less competitive salaries than in Switzerland
  2. High taxes – with a gross monthly salary of 4,000 EUR, you will get 2,539 EUR after tax. Taxes can be between 35% and 55% of your salary
  3. Bureaucracy
  4. German food
  5. German mentality
  6. Has more below with below-average income – 16,7% are living beyond the poverty line
  7. Large number of refugees and other immigrants

2. Austria

Pros

  1. Excellent public transportation
  2. High quality of life
  3. Affordable and high quality education
  4. Food and drinks – here Austria win over two other countries. Austrian cuisine is much tastier and more interesting than German and Swiss.
  5. Culture and architecture
  6. Developed transportation network
  7. High safety and low crime rates
  8. Natural beauty
  9. Active nation with love for outdoors

Cons

  1. Job and career – limited opportunities
  2. Language – Austrians speak dialects
  3. Salaries – average salaries in Austria are lower than in Germany and Switzerland
  4. Cost of living – prices are higher in Austria than in Germany

3. Switzerland

Pros

  1. Swiss salaries are the highest in Europe. The average hourly wage is 60 CHF.
  2. Low taxes and are also the lowest in Europe. With an annual salary of 84,000 CHF, you will pay in taxes only 9,280 CHF, which is just 11%.
  3. High quality of life – Swiss cities like Zurich and Geneva are ranked second and eighth highest for quality of life globally.
  4. Great career opportunities in particular industries
  5. A highly skilled workforce
  6. Beautiful nature – lakes, mountains, rivers, forests, and scenic hiking trails, all are a maximum of 3hrs away from the big cities (Zurich, Basel, Geneva, Bern).
  7. Very high standards of living
  8. The second lowest unemployment rate in Europe – 1,7%
  9. Active sportive nation – many people skiing or hiking or both
  10. Excellent ecology and air quality
  11. Extremely low crime rates
  12. Best place in the world for skiing
  13. Multinational – 32,4% of the country’s workforce is made up of expats. Foreigners account for nearly 25% of the population – one of the highest percentages in the world.
  14. Four official languages – German, French, Italian, and Romansh
  15. World-class and affordable education
  16. Efficient public transport – trains, trams, and busses are 98% of the time on time and on schedule
  17. Great location
  18. Great variety of cuisines
  19. Jobs are plentiful
https://russianvagabond.com/worst-things-about-living-in-switzerland/

Cons:

  1. Expensive, expensive, and again expensive
  2. Must learn a foreign language – Switzerland speaks four official languages – German, French, Italian, and Romansh
  3. Challenging to buy property as a foreigner
  4. High salaries come with high prices – the cost of living in Switzerland is almost double what you would pay in Germany.
  5. Speeding fines are very high. 11 kmh faster on an Autobahn would cost you 20 EUR in Germany and well over 100 EUR in Switzerland.
  6. Social life is less prevalent
  7. Expensive health insurance policies
  8. Education is more expensive – Swiss students pay tuition fees of around 500 CHF per semester.
  9. As a foreigner, integration into Swiss society is challenging. In a recent survey of expats living in Switzerland, 62% found it hard to make Swiss friends (compared to 36% globally).
  10. Swiss people don’t really like foreigners
  11. Swiss people aren’t the friendliest nation, but they are very polite and also reserved.
  12. Immigration to Switzerland and naturalization is difficult and restrictive. It takes at least 5 years to receive a permanent residency.
  13. It might be boring – while Switzerland is a great place for families with kids looking for a quieter life, as a young expat you might find this country boring.
  14. Not great work-life balance – Swiss employees work long hours

Read this guide about the differences between living in Germany vs Austria.

https://russianvagabond.com/living-in-germany-vs-austria-guide/

Main differences

So what are the main differences between these three German-speaking neighbors?

  1. Obtaining Swiss citizenship is much more complicated than German or Austrian. Do you want to get a passport as a result of working abroad? Well, don’t choose Switzerland.
  2. Switzerland isn’t in the EU.
  3. Switzerland speaks different languages than Germany and Austria.
  4. The cost of living is about twice higher in Switzerland as in other countries.
  5. Salaries are much higher in Switzerland. If your priority is working and making money, then Switzerland is the general better choice – higher paychecks, and lower taxes.
  6. Swiss taxes are much lower.
  7. The immigrant population is higher in Switzerland. Foreigners account for nearly 25% of the Swiss population.
  8. Austrians, on average, earn more money than Germans but less than Swiss.
  9. There are just a few famous Austrian companies (Redbull, Svarovski).
  10. Vienna is a much bigger city than Zurich but smaller than Berlin
  11. Austrians tend to be polite and service orientated. But they tend to exaggerate the use of titles (Professor, Doktor, Magister) more than Germans and Swiss.
  12. On average, Austrians drink more alcoholic beverages and go to bed later; hence, are a bit more relaxed and enjoy life a little bit more.

As you can see, Switzerland has the most differences from Germany and Austria, while the latter two countries share a lot of similarities and are hard to distinguish.

More about differences: Switzerland is an alpine paradise and queen of the outdoors, followed closely by Austria. Yet, the Swiss are bigger outdoor fans. Germany has access to the sea, yet, it’s freaking cold most of the time.

If you are a nature enthusiast, you certainly should choose Switzerland or Austria. Due to the beauty of the natural landscape, Switzerland is one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations.

On the other hand, if you appreciate cultural and historical experiences, Austria is the best place to be. Austrian cities are charming.

In contrast, Germany has everything, but nothing of it is really spectacular. Most people visit Germany for historical and entertainment reasons.

Germany vs Austria vs Switzerland: Quality of life

All these countries have a high standard of living. However, Switzerland, in particular, is known for offering a world-class quality of life. On the other hand, Austria has less poverty, social tensions, or refugees than Germany and is way more relaxed.

Moreover, the Austrian capital Vienna holds the first position in ranking “Most liveable city in the world” eighth time in a row due to its high quality of life and satisfaction among locals. German and Swiss cities are on the list as well, Zurich is second, and Munich is in place 4.

Overall all countries have a clean environment, low crime rates, lots of leisure-time and cultural attractions, well-developed infrastructure, and good transportation.

The ratio of prices and earnings is well matched; you can find ways to save but also to spend a lot. Even the high cost of living in Switzerland is covered by the average salary.

Read this guide about the differences between living in Germany vs Switzerland.

https://russianvagabond.com/germany-vs-switzerland-where-life-is-better/

Austria

Austria has one of the highest quality of life in the world, in fact, it ranks second out of the other 65 countries with similar characteristics.

In Austria, employees receive 14 payments in the year (in Germany and Switzerland, it’s only 13). The biggest drawback of living in Austria is your inflexibility; depending on the city you are in, you might find it difficult to travel. There is only a small number of international airports available.

As we already know, the Austrian capital Vienna has been ranked many times as the best city in the world to live in, primarily due to its quality of life.

Moreover, according to the most recent ranking of global cities, the “Quality of Living Survey 2019” carried out by the Mercer Group, Vienna is rated as the most livable city globally for the 10th time in a row.

Public services, low levels of pollution, healthcare, and education all make Austria climb these rankings and attract more foreigners; many of them even don’t want to leave the alpine country and end up staying lifelong. The reason for this is that the quality of life, it’s probably the first thing people look at.

You also will be happy with the balance between professional and personal lives while living there. Austria offers one of the best work-life balance in the world.

1. Free-time activities

Free time activities range from outdoor sports, cultural events, entertainment, tourist attractions, etc. All of which are available in those countries. Switzerland is an outdoor paradise, but if you want to do something else, you might be in trouble.

Not without reason, Switzerland is known to be one of the most boring places in the world.

Germany

Germany offers a great variety of free time things you can do, from outdoors to festivals and even operas. Each city has a calendar of events happening every day. Besides, Germany is home to many historic cities with stunning architecture.

However, it also depends on where you are living; small cities and villages won’t offer almost any “cultural” activities.

What’s for sure is that you can expect a lot of beer festivals as part of the entertainment program. Outdoor activities are a second favorite thing of Germans. That includes biking, jogging and of course “wandern”.

In Christmas time, people enjoy visiting the Christmas market, which is set on the main square of every town.

Austria

Austrian free activities list can go on and on. Apart from the countless outdoor sports, there are restaurants, theatres, cinemas, sports, leisure, and much more.

In the big cities, there are operas, museums, and plenty of cultural events to visit.

Speaking of outdoors: the natural beauty of the mountains and lakes will encourage you to go out and explore. Austrians love to spend their weekend away in nature while mountain biking, rock climbing, paragliding, cycling, camping, swimming and, of course, skiing is huge in Austria.

For relaxation, there are also many thermal baths around the country. Beautiful mountain resorts offer a perfect weekend getaway.

Cities like Vienna, Graz, and Innsbruck are famous for their cozy cafes, offering solid coffees and local desserts, including pastries, strudels, and chocolate cakes. 

And of course, I couldn’t forget to mention shopping and going out opportunities in Austria, which are plentiful. Each city center has plenty of small and large shops with local products you will be pleased by.

Almost every town will host a Christmas market when Christmas is coming closer. It’s very common to go there after work or during the weekend to enjoy some mulled wine and food from all the different food stands. 

2. Culture

The feel of culture is more prevalent in Austria and in particular cities like Vienna, Salzburg, Graz, and you can’t argue about it.

Switzerland holds the last place in terms of cultural enrichment. Germany has many festivals mainly centered around beer and music.

3. Nature

Switzerland holds first place when it comes to nature; it has some of the most beautiful scenery. Second place goes to Austria, with its Alps, lakes, and other landmarks. Germany has some beautiful spots too, but they are mostly located close to the Austrian border.

And this is mainly due to its natural beauty. Its green meadows, sprawling farms, scenic countryside, and fantastic ski resorts have made Switzerland the undisputed tourism capital of Europe.

4. Work-life balance

German companies often practice flexible working time in order to have a good work-life balance. Employees are only allowed to work 8 hours per day and so 40 hours per week.

Germans finish their working day punctually to spend the rest of the day with family, enjoying the outdoors, or just free time. Overtime is still happening but not often.

Furthermore, many people work part-time in Germany, especially women with kids. Companies are very open to this type of employment; normally, it’s easy to find a part-time job in your industry. It’s less common in Switzerland.

Austrians work 8 hours per day plus one hour of lunchtime. Work-life balance and spending time with the family are crucial here; that’s why all workers are free after 3 pm on Fridays.

Overtime rarely occurs, but if so, it will be reimbursed with an additional bonus of 50% in money or time balance.

Switzerland

Switzerland is the loser in terms of work-life balance: Swiss employees work more hours than colleagues in other countries. In return, they get fewer vacation days.

With that said, on average, Swiss people work 41,7 hours per week, 42 minutes more than Germans.

5. Lifestyle

Thanks to the surrounding scenery, Austrians and the Swiss have a very outdoorsy lifestyle. Germans are more social butteries and love parties, festivals, and all kinds of events.

Austrians are the most easy-going and relaxed of those three. They probably borrowed it from Italy. Overall, Austrians are less stressed and more chilled. On the other hand, Austria is more provincial and traditional or even conservative.

Switzerland is something in between. However, Swiss people are much tenser. It feels like a high society, or at least Swiss people want to feel that way.

6. Being a foreigner

Being a foreigner is difficult in any country, but it is certainly more challenging in Switzerland among all places. For some reason, expats have the hardest time integrating into Swiss society.

Germany is the most friendly place for foreigners among those three. There are plenty of foreign nationals and people with an immigration background.

Austria is also pretty welcoming to people coming from abroad. They get used to immigrants considering the last century’s history when Austria invited thousands of foreign workers from Turkey and the Balkans.

Related: “Is Germany a good place to live?”

Location

Germany

Germany is located right in the middle of Europe. A border between Western and Eastern European countries opens incredible possibilities for travelers. Germany has more borders than any other country in Europe.

Germany has borders with these countries like:

  • Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Austria, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.

Moreover, the German transportation network is fantastic. It has much more international airports than Switzerland and Austria together. Frankfurt has the largest airport in Europe.

Austria

Austria borders Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Germany, Liechtenstein, and the Czech Republic. The country is in the center of Central and Eastern Europe, opening incredible opportunities for travelers, yet it has only a small number of airports.

Switzerland

Switzerland borders the most notable European countries, including Italy, France, Germany, and Austria. You can find airports in all major Swiss cities.

https://russianvagabond.com/worst-things-about-living-in-switzerland/

Language

Germany

German is the primary language spoken in Germany. You will be fine in all parts of the country with German skills. For English speakers, I recommend larger German cities, but generally, you can survive pretty much everywhere in Germany, even when not speaking German.

Austria

In Austria, people speak German as an official language, plus various regional dialects. Although dialects exist in Germany too, Austrians are going more hard on it. You might find it difficult to understand locals, but generally, speaking German on some level will be helpful.

Switzerland

Switzerland is a complex place when it comes to languages. The country has 4 official languages where German-speaking part is the most confusing for German speakers. Swiss-German is nothing close to German, and you will barely understand anything. However, in major cities, speaking English would be enough.

As a result, Switzerland is more complex and confusing when it comes to language.

Cost of living

Switzerland is undoubtedly the most expensive place of these three, followed by Austria and Germany.

Germany

In Germany, the average cost for a family with one kid is around 2,300 EUR – 3,000 EUR highly, depending on which region and, of course, the lifestyle. On average, a family of four will need 3,800 EUR per month to live a comfortable life. Single can live comfortably on 2,000 EUR pretty much everywhere in Germany.

The average costs of living for students range between 850 – 1,000 EUR per month, including accommodation. 

The South is significantly more expensive than the East, but salaries are also higher. Besides, prices differ significantly between the large cities in Germany. You would need more money to live in Munich than you would in Dresden, for example.

Compared with other countries within Western Europe, Germany is pretty cheap to live in. The capital Berlin ranked as the 106th most expensive city out of 200 rated worldwide. London, meanwhile, is number 12, while three Swiss cities, Zurich (3), Geneva (5), and Bern (9) – made it into the top ten.

Rent

Rent in Germany is significantly lower than in Austria and Switzerland.

As a working single, you can expect to pay between 700 EUR to 1,300 EUR for a one-bedroom flat. Tho-bedroom apartment costs between 1,000 EUR and 1,900 EUR depending on the city.

Read more about rental prices in Germany in this guide.

https://russianvagabond.com/how-much-is-rent-in-germany-average-rent-prices/

Food

Food is quite affordable and has excellent quality, especially if shopping at the discounters such as Lidl, Aldi, and Netto. Even people from neighboring countries, like the Netherlands, come to shop in Germany.

For dinner in a restaurant, you will pay 10 EUR for food in a cheap one and 15 EUR in a normal one. A three-course meal for two in an average restaurant costs 45 EUR, and an additional drink will be 4-5 EUR.

Overall, Germany is cheaper than Austria, with some exceptions like Munich, Hamburg, and others. However, employees will receive a salary in accordance with living standards in that city or region.

Austria

In Austria, the cost of living is spread evenly across the country. Generally, a single adult would need around 2,000 – 2,500 EUR per month to live comfortably in Austria. This includes:

  • renting a one-bedroom apartment in the good area
  • buying average and high quality food
  • going out for meals and drinks
  • yearly vacation and gateways weekends
  • saving at least 100 EUR-200 EUR every month

Students can live on a smaller budget, usually 950 EUR – 1,100 EUR is a comfortable amount to live in Austria.

The general cost of living in Austria:

  • Family of four estimated monthly costs are 2,914 EUR without rent
  • A single person estimated monthly costs are 834 EUR without rent

Vienna is more affordable than Paris, Copenhagen, London, Luxembourg, and Amsterdam.

Rent

Rent prices are a little bit higher than in Germany:

  1. One-bedroom apartment ranges from 600 EUR to 900 EUR per month
  2. Two-bedroom apartment from 900 EUR – 1,500 EUR
  3. Three-bedroom apartment from 1,050 EUR to 2,000 EUR
  4. Utilities for a one-bedroom apartment are around 100 EUR-150 EUR
  5. Internet 33 EUR

1,342 EUR without utilities – this is how much an average three-bedroom apartment costs (2021).

Rents in the heart of the major cities cost significantly higher compared to other areas. For example, a furnished, 2-bedroom (85 square meters or 900 square feet) house on the main street will likely cost at least 1,350 EUR per month, while the same-sized house in an inexpensive location can cost you 1,025 EUR.

Similarly, the cost of renting a furnished 1-bedroom or studio (45 square meters or 480 square feet) apartment is approximately 800 EUR within the city center and about 600 EUR in other parts of the city.

Here is the average rent across various Austrian regions and cities.

Source: immigrantinvest.com

Food

You can get very high food quality for 400-500 EUR per month if you don’t eat out too often. 200 EUR – 300 EUR is enough for monthly groceries for many people.

Eating out in Austria is slightly more expensive than in Germany. A 3-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant is likely to cost you around 50 EUR. You’ll pay from 12 EUR for a single-course meal for one at an inexpensive place and about 7 EUR for a combination meal at a fast-food joint.

Transport

The use of trains or buses as transportation can be pretty costly if you don’t have a year or month ticket. One ride ranges between 2 – 3 EUR. Yet, in Vienna, you can buy a public transport ticket for 365 EUR for a whole year.

Phone & Internet

Austria is home to some of the lowest sim cards and phone and internet coverage in Europe, at only 10 EUR a month.

https://russianvagabond.com/germany-vs-switzerland-where-life-is-better/

Switzerland

It might come as no surprise, but the cost of living in Switzerland is higher than in all other surrounding European countries, including Germany and Austria. Expats generally spend far more on housing, education, healthcare, and daily necessities than they do at home.

Moreover, the cost of living in the entire country is comparable with New York, which is by far the most pricey place in the US.

Here is a comparison of living costs in Germany vs Switzerland:

GermanySwitzerland
Cost of living for a single person$1,414$2,497
Cost of living for a family$3,471$6,578
Rent for a one-bedroom apartment$746$1,329
Rent for a family$1,377$2,548
Food$407$815
Transport$124$126
Monthly salary after tax$2,864$6,194
Source: livingcost.org

There are also some regional differences, where Zurich is the most expensive place to live.

Here is an example of the average expenses you can expect in Switzerland:

  • Rent: 1,400
  • Food: 450
  • Health insurance: 330
  • Other insurances: 100
  • Telecommunications: 150
  • Transportation: 460
  • Other health costs: 180
  • Shoes and clothing: 130
  • Household, hygiene articles: 300
  • Entertainment, recreation, culture: 700
  • Total: 4,200 CHF

*A Swiss CHF is equal to a US dollar

Rent

The cost of living in Zurich is high due to the relatively high cost of housing and transportation. For example, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom is 1,926 CHF. For Geneva, it’s 1,123 CHF. A 3-bedroom apartment will cost an average of 2,752 CHF per month in Zurich.

Food

A meal at a restaurant costs between 15-25 Swiss francs (CHF), while a cup of coffee will set you back another 5 CHF or so. Utilities are expensive, with electricity costing more than 10 CHF per kWh. However, it’s worth noting that Swiss wages are relatively high, so you will earn enough money to cover all necessary costs and above.

Everyday life is more expensive there, it includes certain foods, such as meat, fruit, and vegetables, but you also notice the higher prices for dairy products. The most striking price difference is in drugstore items. These often cost double or triple the German price.

Germany vs Austria vs Switzerland: Job opportunities

Germany

Germany is undoubtedly a good place to work, particularly as an engineer, IT specialist, scientist, or in finance & business and logistics. However, it might be challenging to find an English-speaking job. You might need to look in bigger cities such as Berlin, Munich or Hamburg.

Check out the list of high demand jobs in Germany in 2022.

Every 5th employee in the STEM field comes from abroad, so expats and foreigners have a high chance of hiring.

For English speakers, Germany offers good chances in the IT sector, international customer service, tutoring, and engineering. It’s beneficial to speak some German when seeking work in Germany, but not always essential, especially in Berlin.

The German economy is the largest in Europe; hence it offers by far the biggest employment opportunities compared to Austria and Switzerland. Moreover, after two years of employment in Germany, you can apply for permanent residency.

Austria

Austria does offer some job opportunities but not as many as the two other countries. It relies on the workforce within the country and not from outside.

If you get a job in Austria, you can expect a starting salary of 2,000 EUR per month. The average working week is 38.5 hours.

In Austria, finding a job as a foreigner isn’t easy. Furthermore, the unemployment rate is getting higher. In-demand skills such as IT or engineering will help you. The Austrian market is very local, so you will see less international involvement as it’s in Germany and Switzerland.

Switzerland

According to a recent OECD report, Switzerland requires a workforce of over two million people. On average, 46% of the Swiss population is employed. The unemployment rate is the lowest in Europe.

Foreign job seekers have a fairly good chance of finding a position in one of many international companies, provided they have skills and experience. However, getting a work permit is a little bit harder than in Germany or Austria.

Here are some well-known Swiss companies:

  • Nestlé
  • Novartis
  • Glencore
  • UBS, and
  • Credit Suisse

Learn about current in-demand jobs in Switzerland.

Switzerland’s economy is based on highly skilled workers and specialists. Low key, low qualified labor from other countries tend to have limited opportunities unless they are EU citizens.

Generally, Switzerland offers the best chances for highly educated specialists in niches like:

  • microtechnology
  • hi-tech
  • biotechnology
  • pharmaceuticals
  • banking and insurance

Since Switzerland is widely recognized as an international research center, research from various fields, you also welcome.

In other industries, you might see higher competition, as non-EU citizens will have difficulties finding employment.

Americans with different backgrounds will find jobs easier. Career chances of native English speakers are higher. In addition, speaking one of the 4 official languages of the canton will give you an edge in landing a job there. 

Germany vs Austria vs Switzerland: Salaries

Well, Switzerland undoubtedly wins in that category. The average Swiss salary is about twice as much as you would get in Germany or Austria.

Germany

The average salary in Germany is 45,240 EUR gross with a monthly pay of 3,770 EUR before taxes.

However, different resources show different numbers. So StepStone Salary Report 2021 (Stepstone Gehaltsreport 2021) has indicated the average gross salary in Germany as 56,985 EUR. 

The average gross monthly income of the household is 5,086 EUR in West Germany and 3,927 EUR in East Germany.

Some german industries are particularly well-paid, such as pharmacy, banking, medicine and dentistry, law, industrial engineering, industrial engineering, and computer science. However, employees also need to pay high taxes.

In 2021, the minimum wage in Germany was 9,60 EUR per hour or 1,585 EUR per month.

Here are some average salaries in Germany:

Doctor€77.359
Finance€72.222
Banking€64.152
Consulting €63.717
Engineering€62.802
IT€62.278
Law€61.690
Marketing€60.468
Sales€58.020
HR€57.593
Scientific research€56.317
PR€56.000
Insurance€55.874
Technical occupations/Engineers€53.292
Purchasing, transport & logistics€47.907
Design €47.058
Administration€43.919
Skilled crafts & Trade€43.919
Source: stepstone.de
https://russianvagabond.com/what-is-a-good-salary-in-germany/

Austria

In Austria, a typical employee earns between 2,000 EUR and 3,000 EUR per month after tax. The most typical annual salary is 47,812 EUR before tax. The Austrian average gross wage in 2021 was 52,000 EUR or 34,517 EUR (2,876 EUR monthly) after tax.

A good salary is about 40,000 EUR – 55,000 EUR per year before tax (including bonuses). You can easily cover all your living expenses and even save some money every month.

The majority of Austrian workers fall into the following salary ranges:

  • between 27,600 – 41,399 EUR: 20%
  • between 41,400 – 59,800 EUR: 31,3%
  • and between 59,800 – 87,299 EUR: about 27% of employee

There is no regulated minimum wage in Austria. However, the law says that an employee should receive at least 1,500 EUR gross per month.

Average salaries in various industries in Austria:

  • Agriculture – €2,646
  • Arts and culture – €2,945
  • Banking – €4,227
  • Cars – €3,405
  • Commerce – €3,420
  • Construction – €3,736
  • Education – €3,110
  • Electrical engineering – €3,580
  • IT – €4,677
  • Journalism – €3,101
  • Law – €4,354
  • Management – €5,313
  • Marketing, advertising, and PR – €3,779
  • Technology development – €4,807
  • Textiles – €2,183
  • Transport – €2,937

Besides, employees get paid 14 times a year, that’s at least one time more than in Germany and Switzerland.

Nonetheless, real average salaries in Austria are slightly higher than in Germany. Still, you can make more in Germany, provided you are qualified, experienced, and live in a major German city.

Switzerland

In Switzerland, average employees make monthly between 5,000 CHF and 9,000 CHF before taxes. Even in the lower range, you can afford a decent life in Switzerland, including renting a one-bedroom apartment, regularly eating out, and weekends away.

The average gross salary of an employee is 6,538 CHF per month, which is significantly higher than in Germany (approx. 4,748 EUR).

In 2019, OECD reported that the average annual salary in Switzerland was 60,847 CHF. The average hourly wage in Switzerland is 60 CHF.

Specialists earn more – an average of 117,000 CHF across all industries and company sizes.

There is no national-wide minimum wage in Switzerland. The highest rate is in Geneva, Switzerland, and is 23 CHF per hour. In other cantons, it can be as low as 19 CHF.

Starting from 100,000 CHF, you earn well above average in Switzerland. Salaries starting from there are considered good.

Here are some examples of average decent salaries for various jobs in Zurich:

  • Doctor: CHF 110,000–130,000
  • IT: CHF 115,000–120,000
  • Lawyer: CHF 111,600
  • Engineer: CHF 108,500
  • Marketing Officer: CHF 90,500
  • Civil Servant: CHF 85,800
  • Journalist/Editor: CHF 85,200
  • Police Officer: CHF 82,200
  • Draftsman/Architect: CHF 75,000
  • Translator: CHF 73,200
  • Postal Worker: CHF 66,600

Read more about salaries in Switzerland.

https://russianvagabond.com/what-is-a-good-salary-in-switzerland/

More on average salaries in Switzerland:

OccupationAnnual salary (CHF)Monthly salary (CHF)
Teacher87,5007,292
Marketing officer90,5007,542
Product manager105,0008,750
Nurse68,0005,667
IT systems specialist117,0009,750
Account manager95,5507,963
Postal worker66,6005,550
Graphic artist55,0004,584

Taxes

Switzerland has the lowest taxes in Europe and absolutely crushes this category. Tax rates in Germany and Austria are very similar, with only a few percentage in difference.

Germany

In Germany, your monthly deductions include income taxes and social contributions. Latter will bring you benefits later in life.

Together, taxes and social contributions take away around 35-42% of gross salary. Generally, employees pay between 35%-40% of their salary in taxes and social deductions in Germany.

Income tax in Germany is progressive: income tax rates start at 14%, then rise to 42%; very high-income levels are taxed at 45%.

The first 9,408 EUR a year is tax-free in Germany. Any amount after that is subject to income tax.

Below you can see German income tax brackets. 

Taxable incomeThe marginal rate
up to EUR 9,4080%
EUR 9,408 – EUR 57,05114% rising progressively to 42,00%
EUR 57,051 – EUR 270,50042%
from EUR 270,50045%

The income tax rate for a foreigner with a gross salary of 40,000 EUR is about 36%. With a gross income of 48,000 EUR, you will have around 29,000 EUR to live on.

The tax rate also depends on your personal circumstances, such as marriage, having a child, or divorce. The highest taxes pay a single person without kids.

Austria

Austrian employees pay similar taxes to their German colleagues. Social contributions, including health insurance, are deducted with taxes every month.

With income below 31,000 EUR, the income tax is minimal – 35%. On the other hand, in Germany, you will pay 36% for a gross salary of 40,000 EUR, which is a much better deal. The maximum rate of 50% applies to workers with wages above 60,000 EUR and more.

In general, Austrian employees with salaries between 31,000 EUR and 60,000 EUR will need to calculate 42% in taxes.

Moreover, income taxes vary from 25% and 55%. Monthly income up to 1,099 EUR or 11,000 EUR annually is tax-free (2021). After different rates apply depending on the earned amount:

Taxable incomeTax rate
€11,000 to €18,00020%
€18,000 to €31,00035%
€31,000 to €60,00042%
€60,000 to €90,00048%
up to €1.000.00050% and above – 55%

Self-employed also pay income taxes starting from an income of 11,000 EUR. If you make more than 30,000 EUR, you will have to pay VAT.

Switzerland

Taxes in Switzerland are the lowest among those three countries and Europe in general. However, health insurance isn’t included in the monthly tax deductions as it’s in Germany and Austria. You will need to pay it separately.

https://russianvagabond.com/how-much-does-health-insurance-cost-in-switzerland/

There are various companies and premiums to choose from. We recommend Cigna Global as an insurance provider for expats.

Low taxes are a big reason why people move to Switzerland. The average income taxes plus social security contributions come to approx. between 10% and 30% of the gross salary. Depending on the canton, as the “federal states” are called in Switzerland, you pay different amounts.

But even in the most expensive canton in Switzerland, Geneva, you pay only around 24.16% taxes and social security contributions. It’s far below the German and Austrian tax rates. The cheapest canton is Zug, with a burden of about 14.51%.  

The average income of the Swiss is around 78,000 CHF per year, which corresponds to approximately 70,000 EUR. If you then deduct the taxes and other charges from about 20%, you will be left with 62,400 CHF net or 56,000 EUR. In Germany, it’s 29,000 EUR.

Besides, with a gross salary of around 6,000 CHF, you will get 5,000 CHF after tax.

Taxes you should expect in Switzerland:

  1. Federal taxes (mandatory insurances) 7% of
  2. Federal income tax – for someone with less than 100k, it’s less than 1%
  3. Cantonal, local, and church taxes – vary wildly with location
https://russianvagabond.com/germany-vs-switzerland-where-life-is-better/

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