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Getting old Swiss workers’ union says raising retirement age is inevitable

An employee of Swiss machine tool producer Tornos in Moutier, canton Bern

An employee working for the Swiss machine tool producer Tornos in Moutier, canton Bern

(© Keystone / Gaetan Bally)

The head of Employees Switzerland, a union group representing workers in some of Switzerland’s leading export branches, says raising the retirement age in Switzerland is unavoidable, as the state pension fund continues to face major financial pressures. 

“We need to rethink the retirement age,” Stefan Studer, managing director of the Employees Switzerland umbrella organisation,external link told NZZ am Sonntag. "We need a more flexible retirement age, as we must pass on to future generations an old age and survivors’ insurance scheme (AHV/AVS) that is in good condition.”

The current retirement age in Switzerland is 65 for men and 64 for women. But currently six out of ten people stop working beforehand.

In the newspaper interview, the 58-year-old union leader warned that the first pillar of the country’s pension scheme was in a critical state. He said that even if the ailing old age pension system gets the CHF2 billion ($2 billion) financial boost promised if the corporate tax/pension reform initiative passes on May 19, the federal authorities still predict an accumulated deficit of CHF170 billion by 2045 if no further reforms are undertaken. 

Old ways of thinking must be abandoned to ensure sustainable restructuring, said Studer. 

“If employees are valued, many are willing to work longer, possibly with a lower workload," he said. “Most people enjoy their jobs and work in a profession that gives meaning to their lives.”

But he added that certain physically demanding professions, like the construction industry, do not allow people to work until 65. Consequently, it’s important to offer a more flexible retirement age, said Studer.

The Employees Switzerland umbrella group represents 60 staff associations in some of Switzerland’s leading export branches – engineering, electrical and metal industries, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. It has more than 16,000 members.

graphic with three pension pillars


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