7 things expats in Switzerland need to know about in September 2022
From new payment methods to COVID boosters and referendums, there is plenty going on in Switzerland at the end of summer. Here are the seven things expats and internationals need to know about in September, 2022.
1. Switzerland to vote in national referendums
On September 25, and for the third time this year, Swiss citizens are set to go to the polls and vote in the latest round of referendums. Three national issues (and four votes) are on the ballot this round, alongside hundreds of votes relating to ideas and issues in Swiss cantons, cities and councils (Gemeindes).
The first two votes relate to pensions in Switzerland, specifically how the country is going to pay for state-run pension schemes in the future as more people retire and fewer people work. Alongside a VAT increase, the most contentious part of the vote is a plan to raise the retirement age of women to equal that of men.
The next vote is on the so-called withholding tax - a business tax in Switzerland where investors are temporality charged a 30 percent tax on profits from investments and other bonds, before they are given the money back when the profit is declared on their tax return. Supporters argue that the temporary tax makes the Swiss economy uncompetitive and therefore want to make Swiss domestic bonds exempt from the charge.
Finally, the “Factory Farming Initiative” hopes to enshrine the dignity of farm animals in the Swiss constitution. It also hopes to ban factory farming in Switzerland.
In recent weeks, according to 20 minuten, opinion polls have narrowed, so the jury remains out on many of the issues at play. For more information about the national referendums, check out our expat guide.
2. Swiss government to implement emergency gas plan
Elsewhere, the government is expected to put its gas reduction plan into action. Announced on August 31, the Federal Council’s goal is to reduce gas consumption by 15 percent this winter, to avoid shortages and blackouts.
The plan - called the Energy is scarce. Let’s not waste it campaign - will involve voluntary measures in the beginning, such as not heating houses as much, and taking shorter and cooler showers. However, if gas remains scarce, the government has confirmed that strict quotas for businesses and blanket bans would be considered.
3. Swiss red and orange payment slips to be replaced by QR-code bills
From September 30, 2022, people in Switzerland will no longer be able to use traditional orange and red payment slips to pay bills to health insurance providers, banks and other institutions. Instead, after an agreement was reached between companies and banks, people will have to use QR-code style bills in all invoiced banking transactions.
Not sure what QR-code bills are, or are unsure of how to use them? Check out the guide to QR-code bills.
4. Second COVID booster set to be approved for wider public
Alongside government plans to reduce gas consumption, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) is expected to announce its COVID strategy in September. According to The Local, with cases predicted to rise significantly as temperatures drop, the FOPH is expected to recommend a second COVID booster to the general public.
Unlike current rules, where most people have to pay for the second booster, the new campaign, expected to begin in October, will be rolled out to the wider population for free. The second booster is also likely to be an updated version of the vaccines, which will be better adapted to the current variants of COVID.
5. September to bring two major Swiss holidays
On a lighter note, September time will see the return of many popular holidays in Switzerland. In Zurich, for example, Knabenschiessen (meaning shooting boys) will return on September 12. Despite the off-putting name, the event is actually the world’s largest youth rifle competition, dating back to the 17th century.
The most celebrated holiday nationwide, however, will be Swiss Federal Fast (Eidgenössischer Dank-, Buss- und Bettag, Jeûne fédéral, Digiuno federale). Also known as Federal Day of Thanksgiving, Repentance and Prayer, the event is similar to thanksgiving in the US and Canada in that it involves a giant feast where all faiths and religions are invited.
5. Students at universities in Switzerland to return
Students across Switzerland are set to return to higher education for another academic year. Swiss universities, technical colleges and Universities of Applied Sciences and Arts will begin a new semester on and around September 19. If you have just finished primary and secondary education, and have gotten into one of these famed Swiss institutions, all the best of luck!
6. End of summer and start of autumn in Switzerland
Finally, after near-constant heatwaves and water shortages in Swiss rivers and lakes, the people and wildlife of the alpine nation may be happy to know that September 22 will mark the official end of summer and the start of autumn in the northern hemisphere.
While this likely means the end of swimming in Swiss lakes, many residents may appreciate the cooler temperatures, which are perfect for a hike up a mountain or a day trip to a Swiss historical site. Also, plant life should welcome the start of autumn, as the season is more likely to gift them some much-needed rain.
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