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The Swiss vote for a higher pension and they get it

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The Swiss vote for a higher pension and they get it

BERN. Swiss voters have given themselves an extra month’s pension a year – in a national referendum focused on the living standards of older people. The government had warned that the increase would be too costly to bear, but nearly 60% of voters said “yes” in Sunday’s poll. Separately, 75% rejected raising the retirement age from 65 to 66.

The maximum monthly state pension is 2,550 euros – not enough, according to many, to live in Switzerland. The cost of living in Switzerland, particularly in cities like Zurich and Geneva, is among the highest in the world.

Health insurance premiums, which are mandatory for everyone, have risen rapidly, and seniors sometimes struggle to pay them. Women who have had work breaks to raise a family and immigrants recruited decades ago to work in Swiss factories, restaurants or hospitals may find it particularly difficult to make ends meet. More and more people work into their 70s not by choice, but out of necessity. Meanwhile, work stress and burnout are increasing among the younger generations.

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The proposal to increase pensions was put forward by trade unions, but was opposed by the Swiss government, parliament and business leaders, who argued that it was not sustainable.

Swiss voters often follow the government’s advice when it comes to money: a few years ago they rejected an extra week of holiday a year. This time they said enough, using the power that the Swiss direct democracy system gives them to vote for an extra month’s pension a year.

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The initiative obtained the required double majority: the popular vote and a majority in most of the country’s 26 cantons. The result was described as a “historic victory for pensioners” by Avivo, a Swiss association that defends the rights of current and future pensioners.

Activists celebrate in Bern after the results of the vote to increase pensions


The move brings the state pension in line with the Swiss pay system, which is also paid in 13 installments, meaning workers receive a double payment in November. The system was originally designed to help people with Christmas and their annual tax payments. As Swiss pensioners pointed out, pensions were also taxed and the Christmas fun doesn’t stop at 65.

Further demonstrating that the Swiss believe life shouldn’t be all work and no play, they also overwhelmingly rejected raising the retirement age. Although the government has warned citizens about the risks of the move, voters – looking at Switzerland’s growing economy, whose success is largely thanks to their hard work – clearly believe that their country can afford it.

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