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Pensions vote: ‘the reform comes on the expense of ladies’

Vania Alleva, president of the Unia commerce union. Anthony Anex

Vania Alleva, the boss of Switzerland’s largest commerce union, says wage discrimination needs to be eradicated earlier than girls are made to work longer. She needs voters to say ‘no’ to a reform of the old-age pension system on September 25.

This content material was printed on September 8, 2022 – 09:00

After two earlier reform efforts failed on the poll field in 2004 and 2017, the Swiss are set to vote once more on a proposal to revamp the pension system to make sure its monetary viability.

The central plank of the reform is a rise within the retirement age for ladies from 64 to 65, placing them on an equal footing with males. Authorities, parliament, and events from the suitable and centre all say this can be a mandatory measure. However the change provoked an outcry from the left and commerce unions, who collected 150,000 signatures to power a referendum.

For Vania Alleva, the president of Switzerland’s largest commerce union Unia, the reform is unacceptable.

SWI Two makes an attempt to reform the pension system have already failed. Can Switzerland afford to say ‘no’ once more?

Vania Alleva: The pension system has no structural issues. It’s strong, it has no liquidity points. The newest outcomes present this: final yr, it made a revenue of CHF2.6 billion ($2.64 billion). There is no such thing as a want for this reform, which is on the expense of ladies.

SWI: However with out reform the system shall be in deficit from 2029 onwards, in line with projections by the Federal Social Insurance coverage Workplace. How would we proceed to finance pensions?

V.A.: The authorities’ forecasts are too pessimistic. Each ten years, the federal government makes a mistake in its predictions, leaving it out by a number of billion francs. The system will definitely should shoulder the retirement of the child boomer technology. Nevertheless, we will discover different methods to unravel this transitional drawback, if we now have to. It’s a query of political will. 

SWI: What options do the left and the unions suggest to cope with this drawback?

V.A.: To start with, current wage discrimination have to be eradicated. Past that, there are numerous methods of strengthening the primary pillar [the state pension scheme], as a result of in any case we have to enhance pensions, that are at the moment too low. We’ve got proposed a really concrete resolution to realize this: the Swiss Nationwide Financial institution initiative, a proposal to make use of the central financial institution’s billions of earnings to spice up the pension system.

SWI: Most OECD international locations have already elevated the retirement age and eradicated the gender hole. Can Switzerland afford to not observe the worldwide pattern?

V.A.: We’ve got to consider the fact of the Swiss labour market, which isn’t rosy for older staff. Folks between the ages of 55 and 64 have the very best unemployment charges. And a report printed on the finish of 2021 by the State Secretariat for Financial Affairs confirmed that the variety of 55 to 64-year-olds pressured to go away the labour market altogether – as a consequence of incapacity, sickness or lack of alternative – elevated between 2010 and 2020.

The scenario is much more troublesome in female-dominated professions like care work. A survey carried out by Unia earlier than the pandemic confirmed that just about half of care staff suppose they won’t be able to work till they attain retirement age. This exhibits that we will’t afford to extend the age even additional. It might imply extra unemployment.

SWI: The ladies most affected by this reform (born between 1961 and 1969) will profit from compensation measures, specifically the chance to retire as younger as 62 with a smaller discount of their pension. Are these measures not sufficient? 

V.A.: This reform means shedding a yr’s pension, which is able to value girls CHF26,000, regardless that their pensions are already a 3rd decrease than males’s. The compensation measures are utterly insufficient. We also needs to remember that this dismantling of the pension system is simply step one in the direction of elevating the retirement age to 67 for everybody.

SWI: Pension inequality is especially as a result of second pillar (occupational pensions), not a lot the primary pillar (state-backed old-age pensions). Isn’t the left combating the incorrect battle?

V.A.: Under no circumstances! It’s important to not weaken the primary pillar, which is the fairest and most balanced of the [three-pillar] system. It ought to slightly be strengthened, as a result of one in three girls has no second pillar protection and has to get by on the primary. In fact, we even have to seek out options to decelerate the decline in second-pillar payouts. Representatives of workers, employers and the federal government truly reached a compromise to reform the occupational pension scheme, but it surely was thrown out in parliament. That’s our subsequent battle.

SWI: A differentiated retirement age is the remnant of a patriarchal system, with the argument of the federal government within the final century being that ladies had a “physiological drawback” in comparison with males. Why ought to we protect this old school mannequin?

V.A.: What’s old school and unconstitutional is the truth that girls proceed to undergo huge wage discriminations. They earn on common 19% lower than males. Equal pay is enshrined in regulation, within the structure, however we proceed to keep away from the issue. If these inequalities had been ended, the cash this reform needs to achieve on the expense of ladies would circulate naturally into the coffers of the pension system. It might be extra worthwhile. 

SWI: Nonetheless, many ladies assist the reform. Isn’t it deceptive for the left and the unions to make use of this as an argument for equality?

V.A.: Perhaps the right-wing girls who launched the marketing campaign for reform have excessive salaries and no monetary worries. Legal professionals or college professors will have the ability to take a pension reduce of CHF26,000. However girls with low incomes and restricted means will really feel the complete influence. Pensions for {couples} can even undergo.

SWI: Backers of the reform imagine that permitting girls to retire earlier just isn’t a approach to remove wage discrimination. Would not or not it’s higher to extend their earnings and enhance childcare, for instance?

V.A.: We’ve got been combating discrimination and inequality for many years and can proceed to take action. We didn’t have the assist of ladies reform activists when it got here to revising the Gender Equality Act or combating for pay rises in professions the place girls are predominantly employed. These professions proceed to be poorly paid, regardless that the pandemic has highlighted how vital they’re. All this has implications for old-age pensions. One in 9 girls has to assert supplementary advantages to get by in retirement. This drawback have to be solved first, slightly than asking them to work longer to earn much less.

SWI: The left and the unions additionally oppose the second a part of the reform, a rise in value-added tax from 7.7% to eight.1%. However the measure would herald round CHF1.4 billion per yr to strengthen the pension system. Can we actually do with out this windfall?

V.A.: Folks already face rising costs, and a steep enhance in medical health insurance premiums is anticipated in September. In opposition to this backdrop, a VAT hike could be too heavy a burden on households. We’re anticipated to pay extra whereas our pensions are reduce. It’s not acceptable.

Under: an opposing viewpoint from Brenda Duruz McEvoy, pensions knowledgeable on the employers’ affiliation in canton Vaud.

Translated from French by Catherine Hickley/dos

In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI requirements

Extra: SWI licensed by the Journalism Belief Initiative

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