AHV Reform: A Narrow Yes Driven by Pragmatism

26.09.2022 | Lukas Golder, GFS Bern

The reform of the old-age pension system was accepted by a razor-thin margin. The initially comfortable approval dwindled more and more in the course of the referendum campaign.

This trend was predicted in the preliminary polls. This development was triggered by women and from the French- and Italian-speaking parts of Switzerland. The mobilisation, which was expected to be above average and to grow in the course of the referendum campaign, strengthened this trend slightly until the end. In the last 20 days, the opposing camp (critical of the authorities) succeeded in putting their stamp on the discussion. The focus was on the question of raising the women’s pension age and this was increasingly seen as a one-sided reform.

Traditionally, AHV proposals have a difficult time at the ballot box. While there is a broad consensus on the urgency of the need for action for Switzerland as a whole, at the individual level everyone always calculates what a reform means for their own wallet and security in old age. The narrow Yes vote today is symbolic of this dichotomy. It is a pragmatic “yes”, not an enthusiastic one. And: a certain degree of mistrust towards parliament and the next reform steps may also have contributed to the close outcome. Even subtle undertones become relevant with such a close result: The fact that the Council of States put the brakes on the discussion of the BVG reform shortly before the vote may have further fuelled this mistrust and played into the hands of the opponents of the reform.

The fact that the additional financing did better in the ballot box than the reform proposal itself is probably an expression of the fact that the population certainly sees the pressure of the problem in this issue and is also prepared to pay a certain amount for restructuring – but there is also the perception that this should not be done on the backs of certain groups of the population (namely women).

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Lukas Golder

Lukas Golder