The swiss narrowly agreed to the government’s controversial pension reform plan, which would raise the age of retirement of the womenaccording to estimates.
Shortly after the polling stations closed at noon (10:00 GMT), the pollster gfs.bern stated that the pension reform plan was approved with 51% of the votes.
After two previous attempts, in 2004 and 2017, Bern would win enough votes to “stabilize” the old-age social security system, in danger of being overwhelmed by rising life expectancy and the huge baby boomer generation reaching retirement age.
The most controversial part of the reform stipulates that women work until the age of 65 to receive a full pension, instead of allowing them to leave a year before men, as is currently the case.
The measures, which also include an increase in VAT (Value Added Tax), were approved last year by Parliament, but left-wing parties and unions criticized that the reform is done “at the expense of women.”
That is why they took the issue to a referendum under the Swiss system of direct democracy.
Advocates of the reform argue that it is reasonable to set the same retirement age for men and women, but the measure has generated rejection, especially among women.
Opponents argue that women face discrimination and a pay gap in Switzerland, resulting in lower pensions than men.
They point out that it is unfair to raise their pension age without first resolving these issues.
In 2020, women in Switzerland on average received nearly 35% lower pensions than their male counterparts, according to the economy ministry.
The result of the vote “is painful for the left and the unions, but above all for the people affected,” said Samuel Bendahan, national councilor of the PS, on RTS public television.
On the other hand, the initiative to ban intensive livestock farming, eradicating industrial farms in this country that is still largely rural although agriculture weighs relatively little in the national wealth, was roundly rejected, with 63% of votes against.
Animal advocacy organizations pushing the measure wanted to give constitutional protection to farm animals such as cows, chickens and pigs.
“We believe that animal husbandry is one of the defining issues of our time,” animal welfare group Sentience, which launched the initiative, said on its website.
The proposal, supported by left-wing parties and environmental organizations such as Greenpeace, sought to impose minimum requirements for the care of animals, their access to the outside and slaughter practices.
The regulations were also to apply to the importation of products of animal origin.
The government and parliament rejected the initiative, insisting that Switzerland already has one of the strictest animal welfare laws in the world.
Under current law, farms cannot have more than 1,500 fattening pigs, 27,000 broiler chickens or 300 calves, which would prevent them from having industrial farms like those in other countries.
Bern had warned that tightening those rules would cause a sharp increase in prices and the import clause would impact relations with its trading partners.
Such arguments seem to have convinced a growing number of Swiss.
The Swiss also voted Sunday on regional issues, including one by the canton of Bern to lower the voting age from 18 to 16.
Many people vote early in the popular consultations that Switzerland regularly holds, and the polls are open for a few hours on voting day.