The pandemic is no longer the sole worry
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The pandemic is no longer the sole worry

For the second time in a row, the Swiss have named the coronavirus pandemic as their main worry but, in almost the same breath, they now also name climate change and retirement provision.

The coronavirus pandemic remains the number one conversation and media topic in Switzerland. However, the rapid development of suitable vaccines has somewhat lessened the problem in the eyes of the Swiss. Instead of a majority (51%) like last year, now only 40% count the coronavirus as one of their five main worries. Nonetheless, the pandemic is still at the very top of the Worry Barometer ranking. It has led to a sense of vulnerability and is the main factor of an uncertainty that is rampant, including in Switzerland.

For 39% of voters, climate change (+10 percentage points or pp) and retirement provision (+2 pp) are also main worries. The fourth place goes to relations with the EU, with 33% (+10 pp).

The most urgent problem

The CO2 Act may have been rejected by a hair on June 13, not least with a reference to the planned climate tax on airplane tickets, but even its opponents have acknowledged an enormous need for action. For the question of main worries with no possible answers specified, environmental protection is at the top by a large margin with 51% (retirement provision 33%); and for 18% of the population, climate change is still the problem that Switzerland has to solve first (retirement provision 12%).

The population groups with the following characteristics are especially aware of environmental protection: left-leaning 66%, monthly income above CHF 9,000 50%, high level of education 49%, young / high degree of confidence in politics / monthly income between CHF 7,000 and CHF 9,000 francs 45%. In contrast, the figures are especially low among those who describe themselves as right-leaning or centrists and those who have a low level of education (20%–21%). The figures are slightly higher among retirees (31%) and francophones (32%), while women (40%) and men (38%), for instance, deviate only slightly from the average figure.

Sixty percent of respondents request that Switzerland play a pioneering global role in climate policy. At the same time, 51% disappointedly state that the current climate policy demonstrates the fact that Switzerland is no longer finding solutions. For exactly 50%, there are bigger issues than climate policy – but almost the same number, namely 48%, do not agree with such a statement.

Main concerns: 2006 to present

Pension provision for old age

Old Age and Survivors' Insurance (AHV), introduced on January 1, 1948, is a success story that has been going on for almost 75 years, even though financing is a recurring struggle due to the significant increase in life expectancy. The annual contribution of CHF 2 billion to the AHV decided in 2019 has led to a noticeable easing (−10 pp). However, a slight correction is now already taking place (+2 pp), because the problem has only been solved temporarily.

The striking thing in this matter is the difference between the two major linguistic regions: While retirement provision is a major topic in German-speaking Switzerland (42%), this is much less the case in French-speaking Switzerland (27%); maybe because pressing current problems make looking to the future more difficult there.

Retirement provision is a main focus for those between the ages of 40 and 64 (41%), probably due to the increase of the retirement age they will have to deal with. Many retirees (40%) may fear a reduction of AHV benefits, on which they are much more reliant than young people, who are more carefree with regard to AHV (35%) and for whom the second and third pillars will provide better support than they do for older generations.

Solidarity between generations is not yet severely threatened by this main worry among older Swiss citizens (difference of 5 pp). The same can't be said of the clear main worry for young people, environmental protection / climate change (difference of 14 pp), maybe because energy supply is a bigger need for seniors (difference of 6 pp). The specific concerns of seniors also include relations with foreigners (23%, difference of 5 pp) and agriculture (10%, difference of 5 pp). Conversely, equality (18%, difference of 7 pp) and wages (14%, difference of 10 pp) are two problem areas that mainly young people focus on.

Little (or less) fear of job loss

In the permanent worry ranking of Switzerland, unemployment occupies the top spot hands down; however, it has largely lost its status as a bogeyman over the past four years. Only 14% (-17 pp) consider unemployment to be a problem.

This is in line with the fact that, as last year, 65% of respondents described their personal economic situation as good or very good. Over the past 25 years, this figure was exceeded only in 2016 (68%). Even 87% (+6 pp) expect that they will do at least just as well in 2022.

The fear of unemployment is at an above-average level among French speakers and Italian speaker (21% and 29% respectively), as well as among people with a low level of education (22%), with no party affiliation (21%), with a monthly income between CHF 3,000 and CHF 5,000 (19%), and among members and sympathizers of the Swiss People's Party (SVP) (19%). Conversely, unemployment is barely an issue among Greens (4%) and Green Liberals (5%).

Respecting commitment and solidarity

Respondents consider the decrease in volunteering (80%), the decreasing ability of the political world to find solutions (73%), the declining solidarity among generations (66%), as well as polarization (65%) and reform backlog (64%) to be the biggest threats to Swiss identity.

According to respondents, solving the current political problems requires Parliament to seek more compromises (81%), the Federal Council to handle its leadership role even better (75%), seeking international solutions (71%), and giving the economy more freedom (63%). At the same time, the population is convinced that Switzerland sticks together under pressure and finds solutions (70%), and that many everyday political conflicts are actually unimportant (64%).