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Swiss expats buck the pension reform trend

Alain Berset

Interior Minister Alain Berset was more successful at convincing Swiss abroad of his reforms than those at home (Keystone) - Click to enlarge

Unlike their compatriots in Switzerland, Swiss voters who live abroad came out massively in favour of a wide-ranging overhaul of Switzerland’s old-age pension scheme.

Eleven of Switzerland’s 26 cantons count the votes of Swiss expats separately. An analysis of Sunday’s results shows that in nine of these cantons more than 70% of Swiss abroad backed the “Old Age Security 2020” package, which aimed to guarantee the future financing of pensions.

In total, 52.7% of all Swiss voters rejected the reforms, which had been backed by the cabinet and most parliamentarians.

Among the expats, only those registered in Geneva were in synch with the majority of their compatriots, rejecting the project by 57.3%. In Geneva, almost all political parties – from left to right – had opposed the reforms.

A tenth of Swiss citizens – around 775,000 people – live outside Switzerland.

Another question on the ballot sheet covered a proposed increase in value-added tax to help finance the old age pension scheme. Whereas the outcome was 50-50 among voters overall, if the Swiss abroad had had their way, it would have passed easily (although the project failed because a majority of cantons rejected it).

Why do Swiss voters abroad swim against the flow of popular opinion? Various studies have shown that the Swiss abroad often have centre-left, liberal tendencies, which was confirmed on Sunday.

The result also confirms the observation that expats tend to trust projects put forward by the cabinet more than their compatriots in Switzerland.

In addition, remarks in July by the president of the centre-right Radical Party questioning the role of expat pensioners – people “who do not generate any added-value in Switzerland”, according to Petra Gössi – guaranteed the Swiss abroad would vote against whatever line the Radicals took (they were against the reforms).

Translated from French by Thomas Stephens,


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Samuel Jaberg
Journaliste basé à Berne et couvrant principalement les thématiques politiques, économiques et de société. Reportages, analyses, revues de presse, infographies, traductions, édition de la page francophone de, promotion sur les réseaux sociaux. Initiales: sj
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