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Swiss set to vote (again) on pension reform

Handing in signatures on Friday Keystone / Marcel Bieri

Swiss voters are to get a fresh chance to decide on reforming their increasingly underfinanced state pension system under a proposal that would raise both men’s and women’s retirement ages from 65 to 66 and then be linked to life expectancy.

This content was published on July 16, 2021 - 15:13
Reuters/Keystone-SDA/ts

Ageing populations and ultra-low interest rates are putting pressure on pension systems everywhere, and many countries have already raised retirement ages. Recent attempts to initiate a reform through the Swiss system of direct democracy have failed at the ballot box.

Now the Young Radicals, the youth wing of the centre-right Radical-Liberal Party, are having another go. They handed in 145,000 signatures in Bern on Friday to force a referendum (assuming 100,000 are valid) on a proposal to bring the retirement age to 66 by 2032, from the current 64 for women and 65 for men.

The government wants to raise the retirement age for women from 64 to 65, but Patrick Eugster, president of the initiative committee, says this doesn’t go far enough.

“The reform discussed in parliament […] only secures the system for a few years, but the big problem comes afterwards,” he said.

“We need a sustainable solution now. If people live longer, they also have to work a bit longer.”

The Young Radicals’ proposal demands that in a first step the retirement age for both sexes be raised to 66. This should be reached in 2032. Subsequently, the retirement age should increase by 0.8 months per month of additional life expectancy. Based on the government’s predictions, the initiators have calculated that the retirement age of 67 should be reached in 2043 and 68 in 2056.

In addition, the retirement age would have to be announced five years in advance. This would guarantee planning security for future pensioners and also that everyone would be able to spend at least 20% of their lives in retirement.

Criticism

The initiative needs validation from parliament, and a referendum would then be expected in around three years.

Critics say the reform is unfair to women, whose retirement age would rise faster, and would only benefit the wealthy.

“People with low and medium incomes would be working longer to improve the financing of the pension system so the rich don’t have to contribute more,” said Cedric Wermuth from the left-wing Social Democratic Party.

Thomas Bauer of the employee organisation TravailSuisse said the move would lead to more older workers being registered as unemployed or disabled.

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