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Calls for reforms to deal with ageing society

Is Switzerland turning into an old people's home?

(Keystone Archive)

The president of the National Bank has called for an increase in productivity to meet the challenges of an ageing society.

Jean-Pierre Roth also urged politicians to move ahead with reforms of the education and social security systems to remain competitive in a global environment.

"Future growth depends to a large extent on current reforms," Roth said in a speech at Geneva University. It was part of a week-long series of conferences on the "Opportunities and Challenges of Ageing".

He said the main aim was to increase productivity and not create more employment. Roth added that the older workforce should be encouraged to remain in their jobs, instead of taking early retirement.

Men in Switzerland become eligible for old age pensions at 65 while women's retirement age stands at 64.

The central bank president also called for more family-friendly conditions, including more crèches and childcare facilities to attract a higher number of women to the labour market.

Roth pointed out that the ratio of the active working population and old age pensioners was currently four to one, but it would drop to two to one by the middle of this century.

Outside competition

He appealed for increased efforts to promote research and innovation if Switzerland wanted to keep its competitive edge.

More has to be done for the transfer of know-how between universities and businesses and the private sector should boost its financial involvement, according to Roth.

He came out in favour of moves by parliament to open up to outside competition and adopt European Union product standards, and remove special measures to protect the domestic market.

Roth also said the National Bank had succeeded in providing favourable conditions for growth as inflation and interest rates were low and confidence in the Swiss franc was strong.

Creating favourable conditions for growth by securing price stability was the best contribution a central bank could make to meet the challenges of an ageing society.

Board members have left little doubt recently that the National Bank is set to continue its series of gradual interest rate increases.

swissinfo with agencies

Old age insurance

The state-run insurance scheme is aimed at providing a minimum cover for all people over the age of 65 (men) and 64 (women), surviving dependents ...

In brief

Switzerland has more 55-64 year olds working per head of the population than any other OECD country, according to 2003 figures.

Some 70% of Swiss people in this age bracket are in work compared with around 63% in Japan, 55% in the US and only 27% in Belgium.

The proportion of the workforce aged over 50 in Switzerland is set to rise to about a third from a quarter today.

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Key facts

By 2050 the number of under 20s is expected to drop by 15% and there will be 4% fewer aged between 20-64, according to the Federal Statistics Office.
The generation aged 65 and over is expected to increase by 60-124% in the same period.
By then the ratio of old age pensioners to workers is expected to have dropped to 4-1 from 2-1 currently.

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