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PENSIONS

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

If you are planning to retire in Switzerland, you may be wondering how long you need to work for to qualify for a pension. The answer depends on several factors.

Reader question: How long must I work in Switzerland to qualify for a pension?
The amount of your Swiss pension depends on several factors. Photo: Pixabay

If you are employed in Switzerland, you know that the country has a three-pillar pension system — two of them are obligatory, while the third one optional.

The first pillar is the Old Age and Survivor’s Insurance (OASI), also known as AHV in German-speaking regions, and as AVS in French and Italian cantons. The second is the occupational pension (BVG / LPP), which includes the first pillar and is compulsory for employees who earn more than 21,300 francs per year.

Under this occupational pension, employee and employer each contribute half.

Together, the two pillars aim to achieve a total pension income of 50 to 70 percent of your earnings. How much income they will generate once you retire — the current age is 65 for men and 64 for women (the latter set to increase to 65) — depends on the duration of your employment in Switzerland, as well as your income and contributions to the social scheme.

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

A full pension — whatever amount that may be in your case — is based on average lifetime earnings and contributions to the OASI scheme. “Lifetime” in this particular context means you have been in full-time, continuous employment for 44 years if you are a man and 43 years if you are a woman.

Currently, the minimum first-pillar pension for a single person is 1,195 francs per month, and the maximum, 2,390 francs.

These calculations are based on full-time employment. If you work fewer hours, your OASI contributions (and ultimately your retirement income), will be reduced proportionally.

According to a government site, “to get a maximum pension, your average annual income will need to be at least around 86,040 francs”.

Two other factors can impact the amount of your pension — either up or downward.

One is that you haven’t worked and paid your OASI contributions for 44 years.

The other is if you stop working a year before you turn  65 / 64; in this case, your pension will be reduced by 6.8 percent, and by 13.6 percent if you retire two years early.

However, your pension will increase if you keep working beyond the statuary retirement  age.

What about foreign residents?

The two compulsory pillars of the pension scheme  — both in terms of OASI contributions and payouts after retirement — apply to anyone employed legally in Switzerland, regardless of nationality.

However, as many foreigners start working in Switzerland later than the Swiss, the amount of benefits they will receive after retirement will be proportionally lower.

You can calculate your pension here.

An important point to keep in mind is that you will keep receiving your Swiss pension even if you move out of Switzerland.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about retiring in Switzerland

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For members

DRIVING

Must I have a ‘CH sticker’ on my car when I leave Switzerland?

Some vehicles in Switzerland display the 'CH' sticker, while others don’t. But what exactly are the rules when you cross the border(s) in your car? This is what you should know.

Must I have a 'CH sticker' on my car when I leave Switzerland?

You may be surprised to learn (or perhaps not, as this is Switzerland, where there is law for practically everything), that the CH sticker is a requirement, not an option.

Article 45 of the OETV (Ordinance concerning the technical requirements for road vehicles) clearly states that all motor vehicles must display the oval, black-and-white sticker when leaving their home territory.

According to this legislation, all vehicles, including motorcycles, trucks, and trailers traveling abroad  “must bear a distinctive sign of nationality, i.e. the CH sticker, clearly visible on the rear of the vehicle”.

In other words, just as you must have a proof of your nationality when you leave the country, so must your car. Just be thankful that your passport or ID card are carried in your hand and not affixed to your rear.

To be clear, this legislation applies only to cars that travel abroad; if you never leave Switzerland at all, the sticker is not a requirement.

Actually, to be fair, the Swiss can’t be blamed entirely for this rule.

This obligation stems from the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, passed in 1968, which Switzerland has also ratified.

“This international treaty provides for the possibility of integrating the distinctive sign of nationality into the registration plate”, according to Touring Club Suisse (TCS) motoring organisation.

It appears, for reasons we are not privy to, that the red cross that is embossed onto all plates “does not meet the requirements of the Convention, so it is not recognised as a distinctive sign”, TCS added.

Therefore, “the CH sticker remains compulsory”.

READ MORE: Why does Switzerland use ‘CH’ and what does it mean?

What format should the sticker have?

This is what the law says:

  • Height x width of the oval: 11.5 x 17.5 cm
  • Height x width of the letters: 8 x 4 cm
  • Line thickness: 1 cm

This means the smaller versions of the sticker that you sometimes see on cars are not compliant.

Your car’s ‘passport’. Image: Wikicommons. 

What about the placement?

This too is regulated by law:

It must be affixed at the rear of the vehicle, horizontally to its main axis, between 20 cm and 1.50 m from the ground, depending on the type of vehicle.

It must also be clearly legible and unobstructed.

An important point to keep in mind is that while you yourself may have two passports, your car cannot be a dual national and have other stickers. If it resides permanently in Switzerland, it should bear the CH sign only.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How visitors to Switzerland can avoid driving penalties

Where can you purchase these stickers?

They can be bought for about 5 francs in a variety of places, such as petrol service stations, motoring sections of hardware stores like Hornbach and Jumbo, or do-it-yourself sections of Coop and Migros.

What are the fines for driving without a sticker abroad?

There is no official data about this, but according to TCS, “we know of people who have been fined during their stay abroad for the absence of a distinctive sign on the back of their vehicle. Complying with the law therefore makes it possible to avoid unpleasant surprises abroad”.

Is the CH sticker the only one required to be affixed to a Swiss car?

For foreign travel, yes.

But if you drive on Switzerland’s motorways, you must have a ‘ vignette’ on your windshield. It costs 40 francs.

The vignette must be replaced each year from January 1st, whereas the CH sticker is valid for life — the car’s, not yours.

READ MORE: Swiss vignette: What you need to know about Switzerland’s motorway charge sticker

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