“In general, it’s good news that people are getting older,” says Jürg Stahl, a member of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party from canton Zurich. The increase in life expectancy is a result of developments in medicine and hygiene in Switzerland, he says, and that’s good.
Still, socially and politically Switzerland is faced with a problem. As the number of old people increases and the birth rate declines, the number of workers paying into the social security system is shrinking. And as the Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, start to retire, the number of people drawing old-age pensions (social security) will increase steeply.
That’s the biggest challenge for Switzerland, says Stahl.
The increase in life expectancy is “a fact that can’t be politically manipulated”, he says. It’s necessary to look at the figures from an actuarial perspective – “with experts, with projections”, using mathematical and statistical methods to assess risk – and then to act.
The retirement age for men has been at its current level, 65, since 1959.
“That’s basically just a number between 60 and 70,” Stahl says.
And although they live longer than men on average, women in Switzerland don’t have to work as long. In 1964, women became eligible for retirement at 62. In 1994 the age was raised to 64. “Retirement 2020” proposes raising it once again, to 65.
“I’m convinced that it’s necessary to provide incentives so that all men and women work until age 65,” says Stahl. “If everyone – including those in civil service – works until 65, then we can mitigate the problem.”
“Where do you see yourself at age 75?”
Jürg Stahl: I hope that I’ll be able to stay healthy. That I’ll have a bit more time for sport, which I already do quite a lot. But also that I’ll be able to enjoy being with my wife, who is 10 years younger than me. It’s a privilege to stay healthy as you age. But you have to work on it. And in politics it’s our challenge to insure that that remains an option.”