The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Higher retirement age is a thing of the past until further notice after clear no vote

The retirement age for men and women will not be raised for the time being. The Swiss electorate clearly rejected a popular initiative by the Young Liberals, which initially proposed a retirement age of 66 and then linking it to life expectancy.

According to the final results from the cantons, a majority of 74.7 percent voted against the proposal. In absolute figures, around 2,392,500 voters were against and 809,400 in favor. The turnout was 57.4 percent.

A look at the voting map shows a rare unanimity. Like parliament and the Federal Council, all cantons rejected a higher retirement age. Even the canton of Zurich, which had the lowest proportion of "no" votes in Switzerland, rejected the pension initiative with 69.5%. In the canton of Vaud, the proposal was most clearly rejected with 85.1%.

Increase "not an issue"

"Restructuring the AHV with an increase in the retirement age is not an issue for the electorate," commented Social Affairs Minister Elisabeth Baume-Schneider on the result in the evening. This concept was obviously not convincing.

Following the wafer-thin yes vote on raising the retirement age for women and the clear no to a higher retirement age for men and women, the issue is currently off the table. According to Baume-Schneider, the discussions will resume in 2026 when the long-term financing of the AHV is discussed. However, it should be noted that the people are "not fascinated" by an upward adjustment of the retirement age.

The No vote is not surprising. Opponents of the bill were clearly in the majority during the referendum campaign. The last polls before the vote had predicted a No vote of over 60%. Now it was even clearer.

Majority against automatism

The pension initiative was launched by the Young Liberals. As a first step, it called for an increase in the retirement age for women and men to 66 by 2033, after which the retirement age should be linked to life expectancy, as is already the case in some European countries.

The SVP, FDP and renowned business associations supported the initiative. They warned that without a new AHV reform, the financing and long-term security of old-age provision would be at risk because the population is getting older and older. Instead of increasing salary contributions or reducing pensions, the retirement age should be increased. This would structurally restructure the social security system and secure it financially in the long term.

The SP, Center Party, Greens, GLP and trade unions voted against. The opponents argued that the demographic challenge facing the AHV could not be solved by raising the retirement age alone. They also criticized the fact that the initiative provided for an automatic retirement age that was incompatible with Switzerland's political system. A political discussion on the retirement age must be possible.

Concept of working life

"We will therefore not be able to avoid discussing an increase in the retirement age," said co-initiator Matthias Müller from the Young Liberals after the referendum defeat. This applies all the more after the Yes to the 13th AHV pension. The demand for one may not be "sexy, but it is factually correct and sensible".

For Flavia Wasserwallen, member of the Bernese SP Council of States, one thing is clear: "With the clear 'no' to the pension initiative, the issue is off the table for the next few years." A general increase in the retirement age is obviously not capable of winning a majority.

In the future, the topic of a differentiated retirement age with a so-called lifetime working period could come up again. Representatives of the conservative parties expressed this view on the Sunday of the vote. There is a consensus that the future financing of the AHV will have to be discussed all the more after the Yes to the 13th AHV pension.

Due to increasing life expectancy and the growing number of pensioners - not least because of the retirement of the baby boomers - the AHV is likely to run into financial difficulties because fewer people in employment will have to finance more pensioners.

©Keystone/SDA

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