New Worry Barometer shows what keeps the Swiss awake at night

Pensions, healthcare and immigration top the concerns of the Swiss, according to a new study published on Thursday.

New Worry Barometer shows what keeps the Swiss awake at night
The Swiss are satisfied with their personal financial situation but fear for the future. File photo: Depos

Retirement funds are the new joblessness, according to the Credit Suisse Worry Barometer 2018.

While Swiss voters are less afraid of losing their jobs than has been the case in previous editions of the influential study, 45 percent of voters now list the country’s ailing Old Age and Survivor’s Insurance (AHV/AVS) system – the Swiss population is going older and less people are paying in – as a top concern.

Read also: Revealed – how Swiss households spend their money

Following closely behind pensions in the list of concerns is healthcare and health insurance. This issue is now a worry for 41 percent of people – up a huge 15 percentage points in a year when spiralling healthcare costs have sparked intense debate.

In third place among the top concerns are foreigners, with 37 percent of respondents telling Credit Suisse this was a major worry. Meanwhile, asylum issues were a key concern for 31 percent of people, up a very big 12 percentage points.

The report’s authors noted this was the first time in three years that these concerned had gained in importance, despite a small dip in the number of asylum seekers in Switzerland.

Other worries that have become more significant are environmental protection (up seven percentage points to 23 percent, and back among the top five concerns) and wages (a rise of nine percentage points to 15 percent).

Trust in political parties slumps

The Worry Barometer also looked at the trust levels in various institutions. It found that 70 percent of voters trusted the Federal Supreme Court, while the same figure trusted the police (up 14 percentage points). The Swiss National Bank and the Army (both 63 percent on the back of large rises) also enjoy high levels of trust.

At the other end of the scale, just 39 percent of people surveyed trusted political parties (down 13 percentage points).

Meanwhile, pride in Switzerland has fallen to its lowest levels since the aftermath of the financial crisis. A total of 79 percent of people said they were “very” or “somewhat” proud to be Swiss, down 11 percentage points on a year ago.

Threats to identity

In terms of threats to identity, reform backlog (including health insurance and pensions) and immigration (both 61 percent), and EU problems (60 percent) were the main concerns cited by survey respondents.

At the same time, many people were satisfied with their own life situation with 42 percent giving themselves a score of eight out of ten for this. In addition, 92 percent of people said their economic situation was “satisfactory, “good,” or “very good”.

The results of the 2018 Worry Barometer are based on interviews with 2,551 eligible Swiss voters carried out by pollsters gfs.bern on behalf of Credit Suisse in June and July 2018.

Read also: Swiss wages – salaries in Zurich hit all time high


For members


Reader question: Can I take my pension money with me when I leave Switzerland?

Some people decide to move out of Switzerland after working here for many years. If you leave, can you withdraw your pension money and, if so, how - and how much?

Reader question: Can I take my pension money with me when I leave Switzerland?

With over 2.2 million foreign nationals currently living in Switzerland, some may want to return to their home countries after retiring. 

With great wages and a strong job market, plenty of the foreigners who live in Switzerland only plan to stay for a limited period of time.

And it is also possible that a number of Swiss citizens decide to move to warmer climes or a less expensive retirement destination – and take their pension money with them. 

The main difference is whether you are going to live in an EU / EFTA country or a third nation.

How does the Swiss pension system work?

The Swiss pension system is made up of three pillars: AHV/AVS also known as OASI (pillar one), occupational (pillar two) and private (pillar three). 

When you pay into pillar one of the Swiss pension system, it does not represent an investment into your own personal fund or a source of capital you can tap in later life. The money you pay into the system is not kept for you, but is used to pay other people’s pensions. 

Instead, by paying into the system – which is compulsory – you get a right to a pension in later life. Generally, this right accrues after just one year.

If you want to leave Switzerland after working here, the basic principle is that if you have worked in Switzerland for a certain period of time and paid into the two obligatory pension plans— AHV/AVS/OASI, and the occupational pension — you will not lose out on a pension. 

However the amount you get will depend on several factors, including how much you paid in and where you move to after leaving Switzerland. 

EXPLAINED: How does the Swiss pension system work – and how much will I receive?

Moving to an EU / EFTA country

If you move to an EU/EFTA country, you are not entitled to be paid out your AHV/OASI pension, however due to a cooperation agreement, you will be entitled to a pension in that country. 

As for your pillar two and pillar three pensions, you will be able to cash these out. This will however be subject to cantonal taxes in many cases.

The compulsory component of your pillar two pension – known sometimes as pillar 2a – cannot be cashed out until you reach retirement age, although there are some exceptions for buying property or to fund a business. This money will be transferred to a Swiss vested benefits organisation until you reach retirement age. 

What if I move to a country outside Europe?

There are certain points you must bear in mind to ensure that you can obtain your Swiss benefits in a third country, i.e. a non-EU/EFTA nation. 

Switzerland has concluded social security agreements with: Australia, Chile, China, Bosnia and Herzegovina, India, Israel, Japan, Canada, Macedonia, Montenegro, Philippines, San Marino, Serbia, South Korea, Turkey, Uruguay, and USA.

If you are a citizen of one of the above-mentioned countries, a special agreement is in place for when you leave Switzerland for good.

The same applies if you have been recognised as a refugee or stateless person in Switzerland and settle in one of these countries under the same status.

If your destination country is on your list, you will be entitled to a pension in that country in much the same way as if you moved to an EU/EFTA country above. 

You can also be paid out your pillar two and three pensions, in a similar fashion to that above. 

What happens if you are going to a country not included on the list?

In principle, your pension lapses when you leave Switzerland. You can, however, apply, under certain conditions, for reimbursement of your accumulated OASI contributions.

This is only possible if you:

  • Have paid OASI contributions for at least one full year
  • Leave Switzerland permanently. Your spouse and children under 25 years of age also have to leave the country
  • You are not are not yet retired — that is, not  already receiving an OASI pension.

It is important to remember that if you get the reimbursement, you are no longer entitled to any further benefits.

Only the actual contributions to the OASI are paid out, without interest. Also, contributions paid for you by social assistance are not refunded.

In the event of your death, your spouse or your children may also apply for reimbursement, if they are be eligible for a survivor’s pension.

How can you request the reimbursement of OASI contributions?

You have to apply to your local compensation office or to the Central Compensation Office (SCO). To do this, you must complete this form and submit it along with the following documents:

  • Your OASI insurance number
  • Confirmation of your departure from Switzerland
  • A copy of the valid passport or another proof of your nationality

You must also provide the address of your intended foreign residence or confirmation of your current address abroad. The confirmation must also include your spouse and your children under 25.

You have to submit a request to your last employer’s pension fund institution before leaving Switzerland; your employer will provide the necessary form, which lists documents you must enclose .

READ MORE: Reader question: How long must I work in Switzerland to qualify for a pension