Swiss vote to boost pension payments: projection

Swiss vote to boost pension payments: projection

The Swiss voted on whether to add a 13th month of pension payments
The Swiss voted on whether to add a 13th month of pension payments. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
Source: AFP

Swiss voters on Sunday accepted a proposal to significantly boost pension payments, projections showed, in a move hailed as "historic" by backers at a time when the country's ageing population faces ever-swelling living expenses.

Not long after polling stations closed at noon (1100 GMT), the gfs.bern polling institute projected that a call for a 13th monthly pension payment each year had secured 58 percent of the popular vote.

The initiative also appeared set to easily secure the double-majority needed to pass, by winning not only the popular vote but also majorities in most of Switzerland's 26 cantons.

Early results showed it would be rejected in just five cantons, with support above 70 percent in six cantons, including nearly 83-percent backing in the western canton of Jura.

This is "a historic victory for retirees", said AVIVO, which defends the rights of current and future pensioners.

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Another issue on the ballot Sunday, urging a gradual hike of the retirement age from 65 to 66, was meanwhile set to be rejected by three quarters of voters, gfs.bern projections showed.

Early results showed every single canton rejecting that proposal.

Most people vote in advance in Switzerland, which holds popular votes and referenda every few months under the direct democracy system, and final results were expected by late afternoon.

'Soaring' costs

The "Better living in retirement" proposal, put forward by trade unions, called for pensioners to receive an additional monthly payment, similar to the 13th monthly salary that many employees receive in Switzerland and other European countries.

Monthly social security pension payments can rise to 2,450 Swiss francs ($2,780) for individuals and 3,675 francs for married couples in Switzerland.

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The payments do not go far in a country consistently ranked among the most expensive in the world.

"There is a purchasing power crisis," Pierre-Yves Maillard, head of the Swiss Trade Union Federation (SGB) and part of the "yes" campaign, told AFP ahead of the vote.

"The cost of living just keeps soaring," agreed Jakob Hauri, a retiree quoted by the campaign.

Left-leaning parties support the initiative but it has been fiercely fought by right-wing and centrist parties.

The Swiss government and parliament also oppose it.

The government has said the proposed hike would cost more than four billion Swiss francs a year, requiring tax increases, and could threaten the financial stability of the social security system.

It maintains that the proposed change would have a limited social benefit, with the additional payments going to all pensioners, regardless of their financial situation.

"If the initiative passes, a lot of retirees will receive a 13th social security payment even though they don't really need it," the government warned.

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'Irresponsible'

For the hard-right Swiss People's Party, the "irresponsible" initiative would allow freeloaders to deplete the social security system.

Switzerland's largest party had strived to drum up opposition with adverts, including one showing 100-franc notes being sucked down a drain.

Initial partial results showed overwhelming majorities opposing the move, with nearly 78 percent of Geneva voters for instance looking set to vote against it.

Voter participation is generally low in Switzerland's popular polls and rarely inches above 50 percent.

But Sunday's issues have sparked heated debate and participation appeared set to approach 60 percent.

Source: AFP

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