Referendum in Switzerland: majority votes for 13th month pension

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“Sensation” in Switzerland – majority votes for 13th month pension

“The pension is no longer enough”: posters appeal for approval for the popular initiative

“The pension is no longer enough”: posters appeal for approval for the popular initiative

Source: dpa/Peter Schneider

The Swiss have never approved a popular initiative for social expansion. Things have changed since Sunday: supporters of a 13th pension payment prevailed with 58 percent. This is a defeat for the government and parliament.

DThe Swiss have pushed through a 13th pension payment per year in a referendum. The unions’ initiative was approved with 58.2 percent of the vote, as the final result showed on Sunday. The Swiss television presenter spoke of it as a sensation because no left-wing popular initiative for social expansion has ever been successful since the right of initiative was introduced more than 130 years ago.

The government and the conservative-dominated parliament rejected the initiative as too expensive. The unions are proposing to raise higher contributions to the pension fund during working life.

This means that the annual pension from the state pension fund AHV increases by 8.3 percent. In 2021, according to the Federal Statistical Office, the average total monthly pension in Switzerland was around 4,400 francs (almost 4,600 euros) for men and around 3,000 francs for women. It consists of the AHV pension and a second pillar into which employers and employees pay jointly during their working lives. The payment from the second pillar is often higher than the AHV pension.

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The total annual pension is high compared to Germany. But in Switzerland the cost of living is also significantly higher, according to estimates at least 50 percent. For example, there are no subsidies for health insurance contributions for workers or pensioners and there is no “health insurance for pensioners”. Some other countries already have more than twelve pension payments per year, including Liechtenstein, Poland and Austria, but not Germany.

The initiative also met with approval in 15 of the 26 cantons. A majority of the cantons is necessary for a popular initiative, otherwise it will fail, even with a total of more than 50 percent voter approval. Eight cantons voted against the 13th pension payment, including Appenzell Innerrhoden with 68 percent voting against. Six small cantons only have half a vote.

Unusually high voter turnout

Voter turnout was unusually high at 57.6 percent. There are usually four referendums a year, and often only around half of the voters vote. A second popular initiative to further increase the retirement age beyond 65 was clearly rejected with 74.7 percent of the vote.

In addition to the two nationwide proposals, numerous regional and local concerns were brought before the people. In the canton of Zurich, the population gave the green light for the expansion of two runways at the airport, which is close to the German border. Almost 62 percent voted in favor.

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