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Credit Suisse Worry Barometer 2018: Retirement provision is the main concern, unemployment falls in the rankings

Credit Suisse publishes results of latest survey of Swiss voters about their worries, trust and identity

Nothing worries the Swiss more than retirement provision, and they expect the political establishment to come up with consensus-oriented solutions to secure the future of the Old Age and Survivors' Insurance (AHV) system. This is one of the key findings of the Credit Suisse Worry Barometer 2018. Generally speaking, the Swiss believe the most urgent problems facing their country are domestic. In contrast, respondents expressed little concern this year over job security, and unemployment does not feature among Switzerland's five most pressing problems for the first time since the crisis of the 1990s.

In 2018, Credit Suisse once again commissioned the research institute gfs.bern to conduct a survey to identify the principal worries of the Swiss, as well as their perception of the country's key identifying features. For many years, unemployment was by far the biggest worry for the Swiss, and it still occupied second place in 2017 – after retirement provision replaced it as the greatest worry among the Swiss. This year, however, unemployment experienced a fall of 22 percentage points, and it now ranks just sixth in the list of the nation's main concerns.

Retirement provision and healthcare/health insurance now rank first and second in the list of Swiss worries, as stated by 45% and 41% of respondents, respectively. The issue of healthcare/health insurance experienced a rise of 15 percentage points in 2018, the strongest increase of any worry. When asked to name the most urgent political priority, the issue of Old Age and Survivors' Insurance (AHV) likewise came to the fore, as cited by 15% of respondents.

"As far as the Swiss are concerned, retirement provision is by far the most important topic that politicians need to change. The population expects clear, consensus-oriented solutions in this area," stated Lukas Golder, Co-Head of gfs.bern, which has conducted the Credit Suisse Worry Barometer since 1995.

"Given the emergence of healthcare/health insurance as the second most important concern, it is clear that domestic issues have a particularly prominent place in the Swiss consciousness at present. Another striking development is the fact that environmental issues reappeared in this year's list of the top five worries," stated Manuel Rybach, Global Head of Public Affairs and Policy at Credit Suisse.

Immigration concerns rank behind retirement provision and health. Concerns about refugees/asylum (31%) in particular have risen sharply compared to the 2017 survey (up 12 percentage points), and they now occupy fourth place in the list of worries. Concerns relating to foreigners (37%) once again came third in the rankings, with a rise of two percentage points.

Retirement provision: a problem for society as a whole
The in-depth section of the survey devoted to retirement provision shows that respondents view the principal worry – Old Age and Survivors' Insurance (AHV) – as a problem that affects the whole of society. 86% of Swiss voters believe that everyone should help to secure the future of Switzerland's pension system. Respondents are satisfied with the "three pillar" model: 72% believe that this model works well and should be retained in its current form. Overall, satisfaction levels are at their highest for the third pillar (50%). The second and first pillars record satisfaction ratings of 44% and 42%, respectively.

When it comes to measures that should be taken to secure the future of the AHV system, 60% of Swiss are in favor of an increase of 1% in value-added tax over the next five years. The solution of making the retirement age more flexible – in line with changing life expectancy – is considered acceptable by 52%, while 48% are in favor of raising the retirement age for women to 65. In contrast, there is little enthusiasm for measures such as reducing existing pensions (18%) or increasing the retirement age to 67 (17%).

Little concern about impact of digitalization on job security
The current debate over the disappearance of jobs as a result of digitalization does not appear to be of great concern to the Swiss. Compared to last year’s survey, it is not only unemployment that has fallen in the list of Swiss worries: 75% now think it is unlikely that their job will be replaced by automation involving robots, new technologies, or intelligent software within the next 20 years. A combined total of 85% of respondents believe their own jobs are very secure or somewhat secure.

Trust: Security up, free newspapers and Internet down
The Swiss have confidence in their country’s institutions like almost no other national population. A total of 61% trust the Swiss Federal Council. This compares to an average level of trust in the national governments of OECD countries of just 43%. The biggest losers in this year's trust rankings are the Internet and free newspapers (both down 19 percentage points), followed by the EU (down 16 percentage points) and political parties (down 13 percentage points). The big winners this year when it comes to trust include security institutions such as the police and the army, both of which saw an increase of 14 percentage points. This lifts the police to first place on the Swiss list of the most trustworthy institutions – a position it shares with the Federal Supreme Court, which witnessed a rise of four percentage points. Both institutions are deemed trustworthy by 70% of Swiss voters.

National sense of belonging rises, as does interest in politics
Despite a decline of 11 percentage points compared to 2017, the Swiss sense of national pride remains at a relatively high level: 79% of respondents stated that they were proud to be Swiss. The national sense of belonging also remains strong. When asked what geographical entity they considered themselves part of primarily and secondarily, 53% of Swiss cited their country, followed by the canton where they live (48%) and their home municipality (35%). There is no distinct sense of European belonging within Switzerland. Only 17% of the Swiss consider themselves to be primarily or secondarily European, and just 16% view themselves as citizens of the world.

Despite the decline in trust in political parties this year, there is also some positive news for the Swiss political establishment: 29% are "very" interested in political issues, with a further 45% "somewhat" interested. This is the highest level of interest in politics ever recorded by the survey. Swiss citizens seem to be aware that important matters are currently under discussion and they are clearly willing to help work on finding solutions.

Economic situation: Concerns over new poverty on the rise
Compared to 2017, many more respondents categorized Switzerland's economic situation as very good in this year’s survey. In fact, 96% are of the view that the economic situation is between "satisfactory" and "very good." Just 3% hold the view that the Swiss economy is in a "somewhat unsatisfactory" condition right now. 92% consider their personal economic circumstances to be "satisfactory," "good," or even "very good." This is in line with responses to the question of how satisfied respondents are with their lives. On a scale of 0 to 10, 89% rate their lives at a level of 5 or higher, and 42% at a level of 8 or higher. With respect to social status and the question about the structure of contemporary society, one notable finding emerges: 23% see themselves as forming part of the lower stratum of society. This is in keeping with the fact that both wages (15%) and new poverty (18%) were cited as being among the greatest concerns by more respondents this year – in other words, one in every six Swiss has financial worries despite the healthy economic situation

Overview: Key insights from the Credit Suisse Worry Barometer 2018

  1. The biggest worry of all for the Swiss is retirement provision/AHV, as mentioned by 45% of all respondents. Which political objective should be assigned the highest priority? Here too, AHV is the most commonly cited answer.
  2. 86% of respondents hold the view that everyone should contribute to securing the future of the AHV system. They are satisfied with the "three pillar" model: 72% believe that it works well and should be retained in its current form. 60% of Swiss voters are in favor of a value-added tax increase of 1% over the next five years.
  3. With a score of 41%, the theme of healthcare/health insurance has risen to second place in the list of Swiss worries. At 15 percentage points, this was the largest year-on-year rise of any concern. On the question of political priorities, healthcare/health insurance also ranked second with a 13% score.
  4. Between 2003 and 2016, unemployment reigned supreme as Switzerland's biggest perceived problem. However, it was replaced at the top of the ranking by retirement provision in 2017 and has experienced a massive fall over the last twelve months: In the latest ranking of Swiss worries, unemployment occupies sixth place with a score of 22%, which equates to a decline of 22 percentage points.
  5. For the fourth year in succession, the trust rankings are headed by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court (70%, a year-on-year increase of four percentage points). However, in 2018 this judicial institution has had to share first place with the police, an institution that recorded a remarkable rise in trust of 14 percentage points. The Swiss army likewise recorded a rise of 14 percentage points, and it now shares second place with the Swiss National Bank (both 63%).
  6. While there is evidence of a decline in national pride this year, it remains at a comparatively high level. Looking back, 73% of respondents were "proud" or "very proud" of their country in 2004, a figure that had risen to 82% by 2010 and as much as 90% last year. This year, 79% of respondents stated that they were proud to be Swiss.
  7. 92% of Swiss consider their personal economic circumstances to be "satisfactory," "good," or even "very good." This is in line with responses to the question of how satisfied respondents are with their lives. On a scale of 0 to 10, 89% rate their lives at a level of 5 or higher, and 42% at a level of 8 or higher.

The Top 10 concerns of Swiss voters

This year's five major worries compared to the last ten years (in percent)  

Credit Suisse Worry Barometer: A representative survey
What are the major concerns of people in Switzerland? How much confidence do they have in decision-makers in the fields of politics, business, and society? For the past 42 years, Credit Suisse has conducted an annual Worry Barometer survey to examine precisely these issues. With the Worry Barometer, Credit Suisse aims to contribute to the public debate on issues of socio-political relevance. Between July 10 and August 6, 2018, the research institute gfs.bern asked 2,551 voters across Switzerland about their concerns on behalf of Credit Suisse. The statistical sampling error is ±2.0 percentage points.

Credit Suisse Bulletin 3/2018 contains an extensive dossier on this theme with results, information graphics, and interpretations: www.credit-suisse.com/bulletin

The detailed analyses of the study, including information graphics, can be found at:
 www.credit-suisse.com/worrybarometer

Please use the term "Credit Suisse Worry Barometer" when referring to these results.