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13th monthly pension in Switzerland: Suddenly left

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13th monthly pension in Switzerland: Suddenly left

In the end, the result was clearer than expected. Almost 60 percent of Swiss people voted on Sunday in favor of pensioners in this country receiving a 13th month pension in the future. What sounds dry is nothing less than a political sensation. For the first time in the history of the thoroughly bourgeois country, a left-wing popular initiative calling for an expansion of the welfare state found a majority among the people and cantons.

The decision was preceded by a highly emotional voting battle. Requests to speak piled up in the online comment columns. In the city of Zurich, the administration had to empty the voting mailbox in the town hall every ten minutes because it was in danger of overflowing. In the end, the voter turnout was almost 60 percent, which is surprisingly high for such votes.

A vote on policies that are too business-friendly

In recent years, all of this was only known from initiatives that were directed against the power and behavior of business corporations and their management teams. But if you listened more closely, this time too, voters were not so much driven to the ballot box by the fear of becoming impoverished in retirement age. Rather, the resentment against those at the top helped the referendum gain a majority: against the CEOs with millions in salaries, against the economic elite who drove two major Swiss banks into the wall in the past two decades – and never had to answer for it.

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“Now it’s our turn,” is one of the most common arguments in this voting campaign. Not only among social democrats and trade unions, but also among the rural, rural SVP electorate and well into the middle-class, well-earning middle of society. Many of them will also benefit from a 13th month pension: the median age of those who vote in Switzerland is now almost 60 years old. And the surveys suggest that it was the old people who made the initiative a success.

The objection of liberal politicians that an additional monthly pension for everyone – regardless of whether they are cleaners, high school teachers or insurance managers – is a very inefficient instrument to combat poverty in old age was ignored. The promise of the right-wing parliamentary majority that they would provide better supplementary benefits to those pensioners who complain about rising energy and food prices also failed to materialize. And the question of how the additional monthly pension should be paid and by whom was quickly brushed off the table by the left-wing supporters. Somehow it will all work out. This amounts to five billion francs per year, which is a considerable amount even for rich Switzerland.

Costs of five billion francs per year

This Sunday is nothing less than a turning point in recent Swiss politics. In 2016, when there was already a vote on an additional monthly pension, the left and trade unions were among the losers. Also because there was a lack of willingness to simply spend more money without knowing how it could be recouped. It’s different today. At least since the Corona crisis and the rescue of the major bank Credit Suisse a year ago, billions of dollars in government spending have lost their fear even in business-friendly Switzerland. And no one in this country talks about the fact that sustainability in a society that is as fair as possible to all generations is not only in ecological terms, but also in social and financial policy issues.

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The Swiss companies and their lobbyists and the bourgeois parties don’t want to accept any of this. They no longer have any sense of the mood of the population when it comes to economic policy issues. Just a few days ago, Economiesuisse director Monika Rühl, the country’s top economic representative, claimed in an interview: Mutual trust between business and the people is quite okay.

Well, things turned out differently. Switzerland suddenly votes left.

In the end, the result was clearer than expected. Almost 60 percent of Swiss people voted on Sunday in favor of pensioners in this country receiving a 13th month pension in the future. What sounds dry is nothing less than a political sensation. For the first time in the history of the thoroughly bourgeois country, a left-wing popular initiative calling for an expansion of the welfare state found a majority among the people and cantons.

The decision was preceded by a highly emotional voting battle. Requests to speak piled up in the online comment columns. In the city of Zurich, the administration had to empty the voting mailbox in the town hall every ten minutes because it was in danger of overflowing. In the end, the voter turnout was almost 60 percent, which is surprisingly high for such votes.

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