Switzerland’s ageing population is undermining the future financial health of its state pension system, a challenge facing much of the world. A number of Swiss politicians believe later retirement is the only way to meaningfully confront the issue. Andri Silberschmidt, a member of the PLR/FDP in Zurich, along with others, has launched an initiative to raise the retirement age by one year to 66 and index it to average life expectancy. This week, parliament discussed the plan.
When faced with an initiative, or potential referendum, parliament can either support it, reject it or reject it and offer a counter proposal. If the initiators like the counter proposal they may decide to accept it and call off the referendum. This week, parliament rejected the initiative but narrowly voted in favour (93 vs 92) of coming up with a counter proposal, a glimmer of hope that progress can be made on a difficult issue.
The counter proposal, which remains undefined, will look at the possibility of limiting the amount of money spent on state pensions, a kind of spending brake.
Silberschmidt responded to a series of questions on the initiative in an interview with SRF.
On the subject of people with physical jobs working longer he thought by that age most people would have moved out of such jobs.
On the possibility of the pension age being set based on the number of years worked rather than age, Silberschmidt agreed that it was an idea worth discussing. However, a universal age with exceptions would be simpler in his view.
When asked whether a higher pension age would merely shift the problem to unemployment insurance the young politician explained that unemployment is generally lower between the ages of 50 and 65. There is a discrimination problem against those close to retirement age. But according to Silberschmidt that is a separate problem that needs addressed. In addition, Switzerland is suffering from a shortage of workers, he said.
The Federal Council has said that raising the retirement age will not be enough to save pension finances. For Silberschmidt this does not change the argument. Without later retirement taxes to fund pensions will need to rise even further.
On the question of whether a counter proposal to contain state pension costs might be enough for them to withdraw from a referendum Silberschmidt was non-comital.
SRF article (in German)