Swiss Review 4/2022

DENISE LACHAT The old-age and survivors’ insurance scheme, or OASI, is the Swiss state pension scheme. Practically all of Switzerland’s inhabitants, Swiss and non-Swiss, along with many Swiss Abroad, are entitled to state pension benefits. Parliament drew up the scheme in 1947 in the aftermath of the Second World War, with OASI subsequently coming into force on 1 January 1948. Previously, welfare had been something of a lottery for the old and disabled, depending on how much money or assistance was forthcoming from family members, charities and the church. OASI soon underwent further enhancements and facelifts. It has been revised a total of ten times. The revisions came thick and fast, particularly around the end of the 20th century. This culminated in the final adjustment to date, when the retirement age for women was raised from 62 to 63 in 2001, and to 64 in 2005. Since then, it has also been possible to draw the state pension early, and the scheme has been adjusted in line with inflation. People power OASI has remained untouched over the ensuing couple of decades. Plans to alter it have invariably been torpedoed – either directly by the federal parliament or later at the ballot box. There has been no genuine reform of the state pension for 20 years. What are the social and political reasons for this logjam? Michael Hermann, political scientist and director of the Sotomo research institute, believes he knows the answer. Cost cutting is necessary due to higher life expectancy and a decline in the number of young people at work who are paying into the pension coffers. But getting the electorate to approve cost-saving measures, or an increase in the retirement age for that matter, has become almost impossible. Hermann: “OASI is unique because it concerns everyone, but older men and women really hold all the cards. Any reform would directly affect people in their 50s and 60s, who would wonder why they were being singled out.” Older voters flock to the polls in higher numbers than younger voters. This applies to all issues. Logically, the older demographic would have a louder voice in any plebiscite concerning OASI. Hence, the nature of Switzerland’s political system is the factor preventing reform of the state pension, says Swiss state pension — still a work in progress Once again, Switzerland has a crucial decision to make about the future of its state pension system. In autumn, voters will give their verdict on the latest reform of the old-age and survivors’ insurance (OASI) scheme. But two contrasting popular initiatives are already calling for further changes to the system. Essentially, OASI very much remains a work in progress. Hermann. He cites the Scandinavian countries, which have a strong social democratic tradition but no direct democracy. The retirement age almost everywhere in Scandinavia is 67, or about to be within the next few years. More often than not, the age of retirement is directly linked to life expectancy. Leader of the Young Liberals Matthias Müller thinks Scandinavia is the model to follow. His party has launched a popular initiative to bring the retirement age for men and women in Switzerland to 66 by 2032 and raise the retirement age more slowly thereafter, in line with life expectancy. According to Müller, policymakers have been unable to put OASI on a sustainable ‘Jassen’ is the all-time favourite Swiss card game, especially popular among older people. The neverending political version of the card game is trying to deal the right hand for the future of the old-age insurance system. Photo: Keystone Swiss Review / August 2022 / No.4 13 Society