15.000 women march in Bern against raising retirement age

15.000 women march in Bern against raising retirement age

An estimated 15.000 people, most of whom were women, attended a protest in Bern over the weekend, marching against government plans to raise the retirement age for women in Switzerland to 65. This is the 13th attempt at pension reform in Switzerland and is due to become a referendum in 2023.

Retirement age rise is the 13th attempt at pension reform in Switzerland

The protesters are calling on the Swiss government to scrap plans to raise the age of retirement for women to 65, as part of various initiatives to fix liquidity problems with Swiss pensions. The government had been considering a new initiative to tie the retirement age to life expectancy, but chose instead to raise the retirement age of women to equal that of men, in an attempt to "reform" pensions and social security.

Politicians have attempted to reform pensions before,  balancing how to fund social programmes as people get older and stop working. The finances of Swiss pensions are claimed to be "tenuous", and with high life expectancy and an ageing population, the government say reforms have to happen as soon as possible.

The government plans, known as the 13th pension initiative or “AHV 21”, would see higher VAT business taxes implemented to cover increasing costs, alongside the increase in retirement age. The Swiss Trade Union Federation (SGB) opposed the new laws as hurting working women the most, saying that the “pension [earnings] gap for women is a third, that is the true scandal!” 

Swiss pension reform to become referendum in 2023

The demonstrators took control of the centre of Bern on the weekend, with the organisers arranging public transport for the march. The peak of the protest saw 15.000 people in and around the Bundesplatz. 20 minuten reported that the gathering was an “alliance of trade unions, women's collectives and left-wing parties.”

The petition to block the 13th AHV pension initiative has garnered 137.777 signatures, with a referendum on the matter due to take place in 2023. Movements for more radical pension changes have also begun to gain pace, with a proposal to raise the retirement age to 66 from 2032 winning 145.000 signatures, making another referendum on the issue almost inevitable.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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