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Swiss vote on pensions and retirement age

A couple in traditional costumes sits on a bench on Friday, September 1, 2006.
A couple in traditional costumes sits on a bench on Friday, September 1, 2006. Copyright MONIKA FLUECKIGER/KEY
Copyright MONIKA FLUECKIGER/KEY
By Joshua Askew
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With an ageing population and ever-rising living costs, Switzerland has held a referendum that could reshape pensioners' lives.

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Swiss citizens voted to increase pension payments in a referendum on Sunday, according to preliminary projections by the country's public broadcaster SRF.

That's despite warnings from government and business the rise is unaffordable. 

The referendum also contained a separate proposal to raise the retirement age from 65 to 66, which will likely be comfortably defeated.

Polls had shown that more than 60% of voters would reject the increase, which also sought to peg retirement age "flexibly" to life expectancy. 

The outcome of the vote on boosting pension payments was unclear, though initial results published by SFR show 58% backed the introduction of an extra 13th monthly pension payment each year. 

Just 42% were against it, suggesting a stronger victory than the polls suggested. 

The measure, promoted by the Swiss Trade Union Federation, still needs backing from a majority of Switzerland's 26 cantons to pass.

People enjoy hiking at lake of Oeschinen "Oeschinensee" (1578 meters above sea level) and the mountains, above Kandersteg, Switzerland, Sunday, July 30, 2017.
People enjoy hiking at lake of Oeschinen "Oeschinensee" (1578 meters above sea level) and the mountains, above Kandersteg, Switzerland, Sunday, July 30, 2017.Anthony Anex/A© KEYSTONE / ANTHONY ANEX

Critics of the pension payment boost claim it will be costly for the state and could lead to tax increases, particularly for the younger, working population. 

Swiss voters have previously been reluctant to support measures deemed financially unsound.

Monthly social security payments in Switzerland can rise to 2,450 Swiss francs (2,553 euros) for individuals and 3,675 francs (3830 euros) for married couples.

Concern about living costs was one factor driving the vote, with Switzerland consistently ranked as one of the most expensive countries in the world. 

On average, a kilo of chicken costs around 25 euros and a loaf of bread is more than 3.20 euros, according to the cost of living tracker Numbeo

Voters against the retirement age increase claim the elderly already have problems finding work, with the rise potentially worsening the situation.

Swiss citizens have repeatedly rejected initiatives to increase the retirement age, which has remained unchanged since state pensions were introduced in 1948.

Life expectancy in Switzerland is currently one of the highest in the world. 

A Swiss male born in 2022 can expect to live 81.6 years, while for women it is 85.4 years, according to the Swiss Federal Statistics Office.

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