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Deiss calls for action on ageing population

Deiss says the time to act is now

(Keystone Archive)

The Swiss economics minister, Joseph Deiss, has called for immediate action to solve the problems caused by Switzerland's ageing population.

Deiss told Swiss business leaders this week that difficult decisions needed to be taken now because the political process in Switzerland was often long-winded.

"If we do not change current regulations, the social insurance contributions of working people will increase considerably," he warned the annual meeting of the Swiss Employers' Association in Zurich (see related story).

He did not specifically refer to last month's proposal by Swiss interior minister Pascal Couchepin to increase the retirement age to 67 from the present 65.

But he hinted that the idea of women working longer hours was promising, noting that women in Switzerland worked fewer hours per week than women abroad.

"The evolution of our society, particularly concerning the redistribution of roles between men and women, has been moving for a number of years in the direction of increased professional activity by women," he said.

"This desirable trend can be supported by measures which allow better harmonisation of family life with professional life," he added.

Occupational pensions

Deiss said that current problems with occupational pensions should not lead to doubts about the effectiveness of Switzerland's three-pillar pension system to guarantee long-term stability.

"But that does not mean that we should shy from carrying out structural reform," he said.

He warned that if Switzerland maintained its present social system, value added tax would have to be increased by almost four percentage points by the year 2020 to finance the state pension system alone.

This did not take into account the additional costs to the health system.

"With such an increase of social costs, workers' net income will go down more and more, with the result that there would be less motivation to go to work," he said.

"And if the attraction of a lucrative activity goes down, the economy produces less, which results in the increase of social contributions in percentage terms," he added.

Health

Deiss said that productivity was a fundamental element of Switzerland's prosperity but warned that it would be wrong to think that an increase in productivity could cure the problems of the social system.

He singled out the health sector as an area where there was much room for improvement in terms of efficiency. "Managed competition" was a priority, he said.

And Deiss criticised the increasing trend towards early retirement, telling his audience that they had an important role to play in their attitudes to older employees.

"A policy aimed at a long-term economic dynamism must lay the foundations to avoid older employees being excluded at an increasingly early age from the labour market," he said.

swissinfo, Robert Brookes


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