Switzerland narrowly approves raising women's retirement age

Switzerland narrowly approves raising women's retirement age

By an extremely narrow margin, Swiss citizens have voted to raise the retirement age of women to equal that of men. As part of the September round of Swiss referendums, 50,6 percent voted for the reform, carrying the day by only 32.000 votes.

Swiss voters approve plan to reform pensions

On Sunday, people across the country voted in national referendums, along with separate votes in cantons, cities and councils (Gemeinde). In all, 55,1 percent of voters endorsed the plan to raise value-added tax to help fund Swiss pensions, while 50,6 percent voted to raise the retirement age of women to 65 years old, to equal that of men.

Speaking to reporters, Federal Councillor Alain Berset said that this was the first time in 25 years that voters had accepted a “shoring up” of the Swiss social security system. "It is a clear signal to parliament to seek solutions to improve the position of women in a reform of the occupational pension system," he said.

According to Swissinfo, opponents of the reform denounced the result as an “insult to women.” They argued that women are paying the price of the reform, as their pensions are already often significantly lower than men’s. Vania Alleva, from the Unia trade union, announced that they would fight any further attempt to raise the pension age.

Withholding tax reform rejected by Swiss citizens

The vote on Sunday also spelt the defeat of plans to reform the withholding tax, with 52 percent of voters rejecting the government’s proposal. Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Finance Minister Ueli Maurer asserted that the vote was a missed opportunity and sent “a bad signal to international companies." According to Swissinfo, he also said he deplored a perceived lack of understanding from voters regarding the economic reasons for the vote.

Co-president of the Social Democratic Party of Switzerland, Cédric Wermuth, argued that voters had recognised that the reform would only benefit large businesses. The vote is the second time the government has been prevented from reforming business taxes, with plans to abolish the stamp tax also falling foul of the ballot box earlier this year.

Switzerland says no to a ban on factory farming

Finally, 63 percent of voters rejected a plan to ban factory farming in Switzerland. Opponents had a majority in 25 of the 26 Swiss cantons - only the city of Basel voted in favour of the reform.

In a statement, Berset said that people had “judged that the dignity of animals is respected in our country, and that their well-being is sufficiently protected by current legislation.” Analyst Lukas Golder from Gfs Bern explained that such a clear rejection was because people couldn’t see why they were voting on the subject, or whether there was actually a problem that needed to be addressed.

In response, campaign director Philip Ryf said the vote was a “missed opportunity” but did raise awareness about animal welfare. Speaking to Swissinfo, he argued that the finances supporting the “No” vote were so large, the campaign had always been a case of “David versus Goliath.”

Full Swiss referendum results for September 2022

Here are the full results of the Swiss national referendums in September 2022.

Pension reform: Increase in VAT results: 

  • Total votes: 2.852.160
  • Votes in favour: 1.570.785 (55,1 percent)
  • Votes against: 1.281.375 (44,9 percent)
  • Cantons in favour: 21
  • Cantons against: 5

Pension reform: Women’s retirement age results:

  • Total votes: 2.853.834
  • Votes in favour: 1.443.075 (50,6 percent)
  • Votes against: 1.410.759 (49,4 percent)
  • Cantons in favour: 17
  • Cantons against: 9

Reform withholding tax results:

  • Total votes: 2.742.302
  • Votes in favour: 1.316.045 (48 percent)
  • Votes against: 1.426.257 (52 percent)
  • Cantons in favour: 12
  • Cantons against: 14

Ban on factory farming results:

  • Total votes: 2.861.636
  • Votes in favour: 1.062.674 (37,1 percent)
  • Votes against: 1.798.962 (62,9 percent)
  • Cantons in favour: 1
  • Cantons against: 25

Switzerland to go to the polls in November 2022

For the fourth and final time this year, people in Switzerland will go to the polls on November 27, 2022. For more information about how politics and voting works in the alpine nation, check out our guide to Swiss elections and referendums.

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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