Swiss Vote for More Money For Pensioners

This past weekend, Swiss citizens voted on two initiatives, with somewhat surprising results. The first of the two initiatives—“Für ein besseres Leben im Alter (Initiative für eine 13. AHV-Rente)”—was a call to increase the amount of the pensions that retirees receive, and the second initiative—“Renteninitiative”—was a proposal to increase retirement age from 65 years to 66 years of age.

The Alters- und Hinterlassenenversicherung (AHV)—Old-Age and Survivors’ Insurance—is the foundation of the Swiss pension system and is intended to provide adequate cover for basic needs in old age. Most pensioners have other income, most commonly a pension from an occupational pension scheme. Anyone who is unable to cover their living expenses can claim supplementary benefits.

The proponents of the initiative felt that an increase in the pension benefits is necessary to provide pensioners with a better quality of life, especially those with low pensions suffering from the increased costs of living. The initiative proposed to increase this retirement pension by about 8%. This increase would come in the form of a 13th AHV pension check, in a model that resembles how many Swiss employees receive a 13th paycheck (so two paychecks) in December. The initiative also stipulated that supplementary benefits could not be reduced because of the 13th pension payment. The federal council and the parliament did not support this initiative, arguing that 1) the current pension plan is sufficient, 2) that most pensioners have other income, 3) that anyone who is unable to cover their living expenses can claim supplementary benefits, and 4) that a 13th pension check would cost CHF 4 billion, which is not supported by the current scheme.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Swiss population voted in favor of accepting the 13th AHV initiative with an end result of 58.24% YES / 41.76% NO votes; the initiative also was accepted in the majority of the cantons (another requirement for the initiative to pass). It is actually the first time in Swiss history that an initiative was accepted that sought to expand social benefits by the state. Thus, from 2026, the 2.5 million Swiss pensioners will receive their 13th AHV payment. Voter turnout for this referendum was 58.34%. The support for this initiative was stronger than the national average in Basel-Stadt, with 64.45% of voters in favor, and in Baselland with 60.65% voting YES. The strongest support came from the French- and the Italian-speaking cantons (for a full breakdown of the results, visit

The second initiative at the ballot boxes aimed to secure the long-term funding of AHV by gradually raising the retirement age for both women and men to age 66 by 2033. Additionally, the retirement age would then be linked to average life expectancy—that is, would be increased automatically if life expectancy increases. As the retirement age had already been raised for women from age 63 to age 65 last year, with an optional increased retirement age for men, this initiative was met with resistance and was rejected by 74.75% of the Swiss population, with a voter turnout of 58.12%. The cantons of Basel-Stadt (72.16%) and Baselland (73.30%) were also in favor of rejecting this initiative, but the highest opposition came from the French- and Italian-speaking cantons (see Where, exactly, will the money come from to support the 13th AHV pension checks is still unclear.

Citizens of Basel-Stadt also had to elect the successor to Beat Jans, the previous president of Basel’s Regierungsrat (governing council) who was elected to the Bundesrat (Federal Council) in December 2023. The vote included two separate ballots: for the vacant seat in the Regierungsrat and for the presidency of the Regierungsrat. Three candidates—Mustafa Atici, Luca Urgese, and Jérome Thiriet—ran for the vacant seat, with neither achieving the absolute majority of votes necessary; therefore, a second round of voting will take place on April 7. For the presidency there were also three candidates—Atici, Thiriet, and the incumbent education director Conrad Cramer. Cramer received most of the votes, though just short of the absolute majority, followed by Atici and Thiriet. Therefore, a second round of voting will also need to take place on April 7.