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Retirement age Vast majority against prolonging work life

A Swiss debate over when to stop working involves questions about the burden of pensions on the economy

(Keystone)

A new survey shows nearly two-thirds of Swiss oppose raising the retirement age to 67, as suggested by lawmakers looking to reform national pension policy.

The 63% opposed in the survey published Sunday represents a sturdy increase from the 57% of Swiss who told pollsters they were against it just before the start of summer.

The current retirement age in Switzerland is 65 for men and 64 for women.

Parliamentarians are looking into an emergency plan to gradually raise the age to 67 for both sexes in order to generate more pension funds.

The legislative plan would only come into play if funds slipped below a certain level, and it would have to be approved by the Swiss in a national vote.

The survey conducted by the Sunday newspaper Schweiz am Sonntagexternal link showed only 23% of respondents favored raising the mandatory retirement age, while the remaining 14% had no opinion. Even among 18- to 25-year-olds, some 55% were opposed.

On September 25, the Swiss will vote on a people’s initiative calling for a 10% increase in old-age pension benefits provided to all retirees through the so-called ‘first pillar’, or social insurance, in the nation’s three-pillar retirement system.

This increase is foreseen to counteract the decrease in occupational pension payments from the second pillar, or occupational pensions, which has partially resulted from lower or even negative interest paid on occupational pension fund investments.

The Swiss Constitution stipulates that a usual standard of living must be guaranteed to retirees through pension payments from the first and second pillars. Opinions differ over whether the system can support an additional CHF4 billion ($4 billion) annually in payments.

Swiss Interior Minister Alain Berset has said that linking the financial situation of the state pension scheme known as AHV to an increase in retirement age would doom the legislative proposal.

Supporters of the conservative right Swiss People’s Party have been especially resistant to the idea of a later retirement, while the centre-right Radical Party has been fairly evenly split over the concept.

The newspaper’s survey published on Sunday involved interviews with 1,122 voters between the ages of 18 and 65 years old, in both the German- and French-speaking areas of Switzerland, from August 29 to September 7.

The poll from June conducted by Swiss media group Tamedia involved 13,000 people.

The initiative: a quick look

Proponents submitted the initiative (title in German: “AHV Plus: for a strong AHV”) in December 2013. The 112,000 supporting signatures were collected in less than a year.

The initiative is not supported by the seven-member Swiss Cabinet, the Senate (33 against, 9 in favour) or the House of Representives (139 against, 53 in favour).

If passed, it must be implemented by the beginning of 2018.  The initiative calls for a 10% increase in old-age pension payments. Currently, a retired person who is single receives between CHF1,175 and CHF2,350 per month. A married couple receives CHF3,525 per month.

Past attempts to reform the social insurance system have all failed: in 2004 and 2010 in popular votes and in 2010 in the parliament. 

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swissinfo.ch and agencies

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