Swiss voters back higher pensions, reject working longer

A file photo of the Limmat river, the Grossmuenster and the city are seen early morning in Zurich, Switzerland. — Reuters

ZURICH: Swiss voters have backed a plan to raise pensions, the first time in the country’s history that social benefits got an increase via plebiscite.The proposal to introduce a 13th annual payout to pensioners was supported by 58.2% of the electorate and also met the additional requirement of being passed in the majority of Switzerland’s cantons.

A second initiative to raise the retirement age, and subsequently tie it to life expectancy, was rejected, garnering only 25.3% of votes.

Polls ahead of Sunday had suggested that passing the measure that boosts pensions by about 8% would be a close call.

Since 1848, Swiss voters had never approved plans to boost social benefits paid out by the state.

The initiative was introduced by labour unions, who said that higher costs of living had diminished pensions’ purchasing power.

The approval is a “watershed moment for Switzerland”, according to political analyst Georg Lutz.

“Just 10 years ago, with bourgeois parties and business associations against it, such a proposal would have been without any chance,” he told Bloomberg ahead of the vote.

The government-orchestrated rescue of Credit Suisse last year may have favoured the result, according to Michael Hermann, head of pollster Sotomo.

“Many think that the entrepreneurs and managers have broken the unwritten Swiss social contract: That managers are modest with bonuses and debauchery and the people are modest with social demands,” he told newspaper SonntagsZeitung.

“People have been angry for a long time about the behaviour of corporations, managers and tax evaders. So you often hear now: ‘If they help themselves, then we also want something for us’.”

Pensions will be increased from 2026, according to the text of the initiative. — Bloomberg

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