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Swiss approve 13th payment for pensioners in referendum

Switzerland voted decisively to increase pension payments for the elderly in a referendum held on Sunday (3), as concerns about the cost of living and support for a stronger social safety net outweighed questions about how finance it.

Provisional official results published by the government showed that more than 58% of voters supported the additional payment, a 13th per year, with less than 42% of voters against, a more emphatic victory than final polls suggested.

The measure, which was promoted by the Swiss Trade Union Federation and center-left parties, also needed the support of the majority of Switzerland's 26 cantons to be approved. The majority supported the measure, with opposition strongest in cantons with lower taxes.

“This step is really a big milestone from a union point of view,” Lukas Golder of research firm gfs.bern told SRF.

The government, business lobbies and Parliament, which currently leans to the right, rejected the proposal as financially unsound. In the past, Swiss voters have been cautious about supporting measures considered risky for companies.

The vote on pensions contrasts with referenda in recent decades, in which Switzerland clearly rejected proposals that would have shortened the working week and given people more vacation time.

Concern about the cost of living is widespread in the country. Zurich, Switzerland's largest conurbation, tied with Singapore as the world's most expensive city in a study published in November by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Mery, a 65-year-old voter from Zurich, said increasing pension payments made sense.

“I’m retired now and would obviously like a little more,” she said, declining to give her full name. “It should allow me to give something to my grandchildren.”

It is unclear how the pension increase, which is expected to take effect from 2026, will be financed. Opponents say it could trigger tax increases or spending cuts and weigh on young Swiss people.

Switzerland's minimum old-age and survivors' pension (AHV) is 1,225 Swiss francs ($1,393) per month, and the maximum is 2,450 francs. For couples, the limit is 3,675 francs.

Switzerland also voted on an initiative to raise the legal retirement age, which was defeated.

Source: CNN Brasil

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