Dialogue The Pressing Concern of Retirement Provision
The Worry Barometer of Credit Suisse shows that the Swiss are most concerned about the issue of retirement provision (Federal Old Age and Survivors' Insurance, AHV), and believe that securing its future should be Switzerland's most important political goal. This issue aside, the list of national worries remains relatively constant – although there is evidence of a shift in the Swiss sense of national identity.
The Credit Suisse Worry Barometer has been telling us about the mood of the Swiss population ever since 1976. And since 2003, one key concern in particular has been out on its own at the top of the rankings: unemployment. The hierarchy has changed this year, however, as the issue of retirement provision has risen to the top of the rankings. That said, unemployment is just a fraction of a percentage point behind, with these two issues both being cited by 44 percent of respondents (rounded figures) as being among Switzerland's five most pressing problems. These two worries are followed in the rankings by the issues of foreigners (35 percent), health care/health insurance (26 percent), and the EU/bilateral agreements (21 percent).
Historically, the level of concern about unemployment has always been strongly correlated with the actual unemployment rate. The fact that this concern has declined by 12 percentage points since the 2014 Worry Barometer is surprising in light of the current discussion about whether digitalization may result in the automation (and hence loss) of many jobs. This year, 37 percent of respondents believe that their job is very secure – the highest figure ever in this category.
In 1976, retirement provision ranked third (64 percent) on Switzerland's list of biggest worries, and it has occupied a prominent position in the Worry Barometer ever since. Over the last 15 years, however, fewer and fewer respondents have cited it as a concern – with only 28 percent doing so last year. However, retirement provision/AHV is now the most-cited concern of the Swiss people. "The trend could see retirement provision become a topic that shapes the social climate, " observes Lukas Golder, Co-Head of gfs.bern, which has conducted the Credit Suisse Worry Barometer since 1995. "The rejection of the Pensions 2020 Reform in the referendum held after this survey was completed has done little to ease concerns. Such sentiment places strong pressure on the world of politics and administration to come up with compromise solutions that are sustainable for society."
Two long-established concerns, foreigners (35 percent) and refugees/asylum (19 percent) have become less pressing compared to three years ago (minus 8 percentage points and minus 16 percentage points respectively), and are now ranked third and sixth in the list of Swiss concerns. However, respondents are still in favor of restricting or at least controlling immigration: Three out of every four Swiss voters are in favor of quotas for foreigners, with the equivalent figure in French-speaking Switzerland as high as 91 percent. Despite this critical stance toward the free movement of persons, 60 percent of respondents cite a continuation of the bilateral agreements as their first or second priority for regulating the relationship between Switzerland and the European Union (EU); 28 percent want termination of these agreements as their first or second priority.
Economic Situation: Subdued Assessment
The Swiss believe in their institutions like practically no other national population. Some 60 percent trust the Federal Council, while average confidence in national governments in the OECD as a whole amounts to just 42 percent. However, it should be noted that 18 of the 20 top-ranked institutions saw trust decline – after years of general increases. Among the (few) trust winners was – for the third year in succession – the Federal Supreme Court, while banks jumped from 15th place to 2nd, with their trust level rising from 57 percent to 61 percent.
Economic Situation: Good But Not Very Good
The Swiss believe the economic situation is worse now than it was a year ago. 24 percent believe that the general economic situation has deteriorated compared to last year, while only 17 percent say it has improved. The outlook is somewhat gloomy as well: 23 percent say the situation will deteriorate further – while only 17 percent of respondents think things will improve. However, there have been years of greater pessimism – in 2011, 36 percent expected things to get worse. In addition, the majority of the population do not perceive a clear trend in either one direction or the other, but expect the general economic situation to remain more or less unchanged overall.
Respondents also say their own economic situation is not as good as it was last year, and here too the outlook is more pessimistic than it has been in the past. 14 percent of respondents think things will get worse for them – twice as many as last year and the most since 1995. In contrast to the assessment of the overall economy, however, there is a slight balance in favor of optimism here: 17 percent of Swiss voters believe that things will improve – and here too the majority think things will remain the same.