Report calls for more respect for the aged
The contribution that old people in Switzerland make to society deserves more recognition, according to a strategy document approved by the Swiss government.
It says policies should be focused on the potential and autonomy of the elderly, as well as on guaranteeing them a dignified life.
The policy document adopted by the cabinet on Wednesday reviews the current situation of old people and defines guidelines for the future.
The Federal Social Insurance Office noted that the situation of old people in Switzerland was "generally good".
It said the increase in life expectancy, the low numbers of old people living below the poverty line and the contribution they make within the family and to society indicated that the negative image of old age was out of date.
However, it added the positive picture should not hide that the fact that the ageing process was very individual and that policies for old people had to find solutions to pressing social needs, for example care costs.
It emphasised that the report was not a plan of action and the strategy was not only a matter for the government, but also for the cantons, communes and other partners.
Five themes were examined in the study – health and care, housing and mobility, work and the transition to retirement, the economic situation, and participation in society.
The report, which will be examined by the Swiss parliament, comes at a time when there are concerns about how Switzerland will cope with its ageing population.
In July, the Federal Statistics Office forecast that by 2050 the number of people over 65 would rise by 90 per cent to 2.2 million, or 27 per cent of the population.
The report was compiled on the initiative of a Social Democratic member of the House of Representatives, Susanne Leutenegger Oberholzer from canton Basel Country.
Earlier this year, a study by employment agency Adecco said Switzerland lagged behind other European countries in dealing with the challenges posed by its ageing workforce.
A barometer of eight countries showed that only French firms were less prepared than the Swiss to adapt. Switzerland, like its European neighbours, has a shortage of workers.
The study noted that by 2010 around 55 per cent of the Swiss workforce would be over 40.
But a survey of more than 800 companies in March 2006 showed that about 70 per cent had measures in place to retain older workers, with the proportion of the workforce over the age of 50 expected to rise from a quarter to a third by 2020.
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The Swiss population is expected to peak at 8.2 million in 2036 before falling to 8.1 in 2050.
The number of people aged 65 and over will increase by 90% in the same period to 2.2 million people - or 27% of the population.
The Swiss trends mirror those in the European Union where the number of people aged 60 or over is expected to constitute a third of Europe's population by 2050.
Switzerland has more 55-64 year-olds working per head of the population than any other OECD country, according to 2003 figures.
Switzerland: 70%; Japan: 63%; United States: 55%; Belgium: 27%.
The proportion of the workforce aged over 50 in Switzerland is set to rise to about a third from a quarter today.
The retirement age for men in Switzerland is 65 and 64 for women. Trade unions have recently called for a flexible system allowing people to retire at 62, but Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin has suggested raising the age to 67.
In 2005 average life expectancy in Switzerland for men was 78.7 years and 83.9 years for women - slightly up on previous years.
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