GENEVA: Women in Switzerland will likely need to work for a year longer, after the lower house of parliament voted Wednesday (Sep 28) to extend their retirement age to 65.
Following the example of the upper house, the lower house of parliament overwhelmingly voted to require women to work up to the age of 65 before receiving a full retirement, instead of allowing them to bow out a year earlier than their male counterparts as they do today.
A full 137 of the 200 parliamentarians supported the move, with only 57 voting against, a parliamentary spokeswoman told AFP, adding that the Left opposed the measure.
Like several other European countries, Switzerland is feeling the strain on its pension system as its population ages, with around one third of the country's inhabitants expected to be above retirement age by 2050.
Hiking the retirement age for women is aimed at saving Switzerland 1.2 billion Swiss francs (US$1.2 billion, 1.1 billion euros) in pension costs by 2030, Swiss Interior Minister Alain Berset told the house before the vote as he presented the government's position in favour of the move.
The vote was among a range of pension reform measures before the parliament.
Socialist Party member Yvonne Feri warned during the debate that savings "should not be made on the backs of women".
With the measure set to take effect three years after it passes into law, women between 55 and 63 will be most affected, she said.
She slammed the measure as unfair, pointing out that women were not retiring with the same pensions as men, due to unequal workplace pay, and the fact that so many women work part-time to be able to handle the unpaid work expected of them such as caring for children and the elderly.
Her colleague Marina Carobbio meanwhile noted that, on average, women accumulate pensions that are 37 percent lower than those of their male counterparts.
Sebastian Frehner, of the populist right Swiss People's Party which backed the measure, insisted that "since women live longer, if we really wanted to be fair, they should work even longer."
To make the pill easier to swallow, Berset stressed that the Swiss government was taking a range of measures aimed at narrowing the gender pay gap.
Wednesday's vote is meanwhile just a step in Switzerland's often long process towards a law change, with the two houses of parliament set to pass the draft text back and forth until they agree on the wording.
And due to the controversy surrounding the issue, it will almost certainly then be put to a popular vote, as part of Switzerland's famous direct democratic system, meaning an actual legislative change could be years down the line.