Swiss keep faith in state pension scheme

Three in four people questioned said they were confident they would receive a pension from the state scheme Keystone

A new survey shows that despite its financial difficulties the state pension scheme continues to enjoy support from the Swiss.

This content was published on July 5, 2002 minutes

Nearly three in four people questioned said they were confident they would receive a pension from the state scheme when they reach retirement age - currently 65 for men and 64 for women.

The figure is slightly higher in the French-speaking part of the country, according to the finance ministry, which commissioned the survey.

Compared with a similar survey last year, confidence in the future of the pension scheme rose by four per cent to 73 per cent, and to 79 per cent in the French-speaking part of Switzerland (up 12 per cent from 2001).

The poll comes amid moves by the government and parliament to address the future funding of the pension scheme, which is financed out of contributions of the working population and employers.

But the balance of the scheme is increasingly uneven because the ageing population means contributions from the shrinking working population are falling while payments are increasing as more people reach retirement age.

Cash injection from gold sales

In September Swiss voters will decide whether some of the money from the sale of the National Bank's excess gold reserves should be used to shore up the state's pension coffers.

Another survey on Friday showed that 52 per cent of Swiss would vote in favour of a proposal, which would divide the proceeds equally among the state pension scheme, the cantons and a "solidarity foundation" for charity projects.

Another proposal to give all the proceeds from the gold sales to the state pension scheme attracted support of 44 per cent, with 46 against.

The pension scheme has been considered a cornerstone of Switzerland's social insurance system since 1948. Together with occupational and private insurance schemes, it forms a crucial part of the country's three-tier pension system, which aims to provide everyone with an adequate income after retirement.

Tax issues

The poll also questioned respondents about the scale of taxation and showed that only a third of those surveyed knew that taxes in Switzerland are lower than in member countries of the European Union.

The finance ministry said 35 per cent of people incorrectly believed that the Swiss have to pay more tax than their EU counterparts.

A slight majority also said tax levels within Switzerland should be streamlined between the country's 26 cantons because of considerable differences between affluent and less wealthy regions.

Besides the taxes owed to the cantons, Swiss residents also pay taxes to the federal authorities and the municipalities.

Banking secrecy

The poll also includes results, already published in May, about people's attitude toward banking secrecy.

The finance ministry said 58 per cent of those interviewed came out in favour of keeping banking secrecy in its current form. This is one per cent less than in the previous year. A further 11 per cent said banking secrecy should be abandoned altogether.

Banking secrecy is a key element of negotiations between Switzerland and the EU for a second set of bilateral treaties. The Swiss government has repeatedly said it is not willing to give up banking secrecy unless in criminal investigations.

The survey was carried out in April and May among 1,500 people in the German- and French speaking parts of the country. The finance ministry has commissioned similar polls since 1997.

by Urs Geiser

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