Berset ‘letting women down’ over pensions

Berset ‘letting women down’ over pensions

Fri, Mar 24th 2023

While the French protests over retirement reached a fever pitch this week, the federal council proposed a reform to the Swiss pension system.
Swiss President Alain Berset earlier this month in Parliament (Keystone SDA).

Just six months after the Swiss voted to increase women’s retirement age, President Alain Berset is proposing to do away with increasing monthly pension supplements to reflect the cost-of-living for pensioners, Blick reports.

Increasing women’s retirement age was already a controversial issue that has been heavily protested in Zurich and Geneva. But as French pension protests reached a fever pitch this week, the Swiss may find Berset’s proposal an especially inflammatory move right now.

More on the vote

The Swiss last fall adopted the proposed pension reform in one of its narrowest votes to date (50.6 percent voted in favor). Under that proposal, the women’s retirement age will now increase from 64 to 65 to be in line with the men’s retirement age.

Critics of the move argue that women already are at a disadvantage given the gender pay gap and unpaid care work that women carry. An earlier retirement age is one of the compensations to make up for this. The new increase will be implemented gradually, while the government continues to compensate women who are closest to retirement age.

(Read more: Do Swiss men or women have it better?)

Berset this week presented a regulation that would mean the AHV pension supplement would be excluded from cost-of-living adjustments. Considering that Switzerland saw a 2.8% increase in inflation last year, the regulation could have major effects. Normally, AHV pensions are adjusted every two years to reflect the cost-of-living in Switzerland.

Berset is attempting to justify the change saying that the supplement exists “outside of the pension system” on paper.

Riot police officers clash with protesters during a demonstration this week in Paris (Keystone SDA).
‘On women’s shoulders’

At an average inflation rate of 2%, the pension supplement loses one than one-third of its value over 22 years (the average lifespan of a Swiss pensioner), according to Travailsuisse, an umbrella union organization. With an average inflation rate of 3%, the supplement loses more than half of its value.

“It’s a slap in the face for the women affected,” Travailsuisse Director Edith Siegenthaler told Blick. “Depending on how inflation develops, the pension surcharges lose a lot of value, and purchasing power falls.”

According to Siegenthaler, Swiss women already make less than Swiss men – in part-time and full-time employment.

 “This, of all times, in the generation that was already disadvantaged,” she said, adding “Once again, savings are being made on women’s shoulders. The Federal Council is letting women down “

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