Switzerland approves plan to increase pension payments

Switzerland approves plan to increase pension payments

Last Sunday, people in Switzerland headed to the polls to vote on two pension reform plans, the Initiative for a 13th AHV Pension and the Pension Initiative. Here’s all you need to know about the results, and where the country goes from here.

Switzerland votes on two pension reforms

On March 3, Swiss citizens voted on two national referendums designed to reform the pension system. The first was a proposal to provide pensioners with a 13th month of first pillar pension (OASI / AHV), similar to how many jobs in Switzerland offer a 13th month of salary at some point during the year.

The second vote was on a plan to raise the pension age from 65 to 66 for all people in the alpine nation by 2033. After 2033, pension age increases would be tied to life expectancy, meaning if average life expectancy rose, 80 percent of the rise would be added to the retirement age.

Voices for and against Swiss pension reform

Those in favour of the 13th month of pension argued that pensioners, especially those who have retired recently, have borne the brunt of low interest rates and a rising cost of living. Opponents made the point that the cost of the plan, estimated to be between 4 and 5 billion francs a year, would put further pressure on a pension system that is already expected to fall into deficit within the next decade.

For raising the retirement age, advocates argued that it is only a matter of time before the retirement age is raised, and that tying the age to life expectancy should make the pension system more sustainable long into the future. Opponents make the point that tying life expectancy and pensions together within the constitution itself is inflexible and would deny citizens the opportunity to change course in the future.

Switzerland votes in favour of increasing AHV payments

In a result that would capture the headlines, Switzerland voted in favour of granting pensioners a 13th month of AHV. 58,2 percent of voters approved the plan, forming a majority in 15 of the 26 Swiss cantons.

The plan was pushed to victory by high levels of support in French-speaking Switzerland, with 83 percent of voters in Canton Jura, 78 percent in Neuchâtel and 75 percent in Geneva voting yes. There was a clear Röstigraben when it came to the result, with Appenzell Innerrhoden, Obwalden and Zug rejecting the plan with 69, 60 and 58 percent of the vote respectively.

Result a wake-up call for Swiss political parties, says analyst

There was jubilation among supporters when the results first came in, with Swiss Trade Union Federation president Pierre-Yves Maillard declaring he was “proud of our country, of our democracy.” Political scientist Lucas Leemann said that the result was a “wake-up call” for centre and right-wing parties, which he argued had ignored the rising cost of living for the elderly for too long.

The director of the Swiss corporate union Economiesuisse, Monika Rühl, argued that fiscal responsibility had lost out in favour of people “looking out for themselves”. With the cost of pensions now set to rise, she concluded that solutions to financing the system must be found urgently.

Raising the retirement age: The Swiss say no

By contrast, the initiative to raise the retirement age in Switzerland failed to pass. Overall, 74,7 percent of citizens voted against the plan while only 25,3 percent were in favour. The initiative did not gain a majority in any Swiss canton, meaning the plans will not go ahead.

While rejected by a majority across the board, the plan was most strongly supported in German-speaking Switzerland, with 30 percent of people in Canton Zurich, Zug and Schaffhausen voting in favour. It was least popular in the west, with only 15 percent of citizens in Jura and Vaud voting yes.

Young Liberals leader calls opponents cowards

Speaking to 20 Minuten, Matthias Müller, leader of the Young Liberals - the party that proposed the plan - said that it was a “dark day” for young people, who he argues will now have to bear the brunt of higher pension costs. “We were deprived of any hope of receiving a decent pension ourselves,” he argued, accusing those against the plan of "cowardice in the face of reality."

By contrast, in a statement, the Green Party of Switzerland said that they were “delighted” by the outcome, adding that the result showed that the Young Liberals had misread the public mood amid the cost of living crisis. “With today's vote result, a further increase in the retirement age is once and for all off the table.”

Full results, Swiss national referendums March 2024

In all, here are the official results of the Swiss referendums on March 3, 2024:

Initiative for a 13th AHV pension results:

  • Total votes: 3.233.722
  • Votes in favour: 1.883.465 (58,2 percent)
  • Votes against: 1.350.257 (41,8 percent)
  • Cantons in favour: 15
  • Cantons against: 11

Raising the retirement age (Pension Initiative) results:

  • Total votes: 3.201.769
  • Votes in favour: 809.385 (25,3 percent)
  • Votes against: 2.392.384 (74,7 percent)
  • Cantons in favour: 0
  • Cantons against: 23

High turnout recorded at latest Swiss referendums

With a turnout of 58,1 (raising the retirement age) and 58,3 percent (13th month of AHV), the two Swiss national referendums in March 2024 garnered some of the highest turnout rates seen in recent years. The next sets of national and cantonal votes are due to be voted on in May 2024.

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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