In a referendum, the Swiss approved the pension reform

The Swiss narrowly accepted the controversial government pension reform plan, that raises the retirement age for womenand rejected the proposal to ban industrial agriculture, in referendums held this Sunday.

The final results show the support of the Swiss for the minimum to the project of pension reform in the country, the first in more than a quarter of a century.

Only 50.57% of the Swiss accepted the most controversial part of the reform, which 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.

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 remaining measures, which also include an increase in VAT (Value Added Tax), were approved last year by Parliament, but the leftist parties and the unions criticized that the reform is carried out “at the expense of women” and they took the issue to a referendum, a possible procedure under the Swiss direct democracy system.

In a separate vote and with a wider margin in favor, of 55%, the increase in the financing of the reform through a rise in the sales tax was also approved on Sunday.

The advocates of the reform argued that it is reasonable to set the same retirement age for men and women, but the measure has generated rejection.

In 2020, women in Switzerland received almost 35% lower pensions on average than their male peers, according to the economy ministry. Critics of the measure point out that it is unfair to increase their retirement age without first resolving that problem.

After knowing the result of the consultation, the group of women of the Socialist Party announced a demonstration in Bern for Monday, warning that the plan would drastically cut women’s pensions.

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“Women’s pension income will be reduced by 7 billion Swiss francs ($7.1 billion) over the next 10 years: a slap in the face for all women,” the group said in a statement.

Sunday’s results were not broken down by gender, but showed a dramatic divide between the different Swiss regions, with the German-speaking part overwhelmingly in favor and the French and Italian zones clearly against it.

factory farming

Instead was flatly rejected with 63% of votes against, the initiative to prohibit intensive livestock farming that would have eradicated the industrial farms of this country, still largely rural although agriculture weighs relatively little in the national wealth.

Animal advocacy organizations pushing the measure wanted to give constitutional protection to farm animals such as cows, chickens and pigs.

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 government and parliament rejected the initiative, insisting that Switzerland already has one of the strictest animal welfare laws in the world.

Under the 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.

Supporters of this initiative said they were pleased to have managed to bring the issue to political debate and raise awareness.

“The whole of Switzerland has discussed the problems related to intensive farming and our meat consumption,” Vera Weber, director of the Franz Weber Foundation, told RTS. “For us, it’s a victory.”

Turnout in Sunday’s referendums was 52%, slightly higher than the usual 50% for this type of vote.

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