The seniors@work platform is certainly a great offer for some seniors. However, a closer look soon shows that both the seniors who participate and the job offers show that continuing to work after retirement is only an option for a limited number of pensioners. These tend to be more people with an academic background and/or "office jobs". Bricklayers, gardeners and salespeople are in short supply. In addition, a distinction must be made between gainful employment and voluntary work.

It was associations of employees that founded the unions. This makes it clear that the unions are committed to the working population. Nevertheless, employees who continue to work beyond the normal retirement age are not the focus of the unions. This is because our attention must first be given to those employees who cannot or are not allowed to work until normal retirement. Reaching the normal retirement age is a major challenge for many employees, especially, but not only, in physically demanding jobs.

A study by the unemployment insurance agency has shown that older employees often have great difficulty finding a new job, even if they have good training and qualifications, and even if they significantly reduce their salary expectations.

The poorer benefits in the second pillar are also the reason why the employment rate of 55 to 64 year olds has increased sharply.

The argument that older employees are too expensive cannot be accepted: According to a survey by the statistical office in Zurich, the wage development for women up to about 50 years of age and for men up to 55 years of age has a positive effect on wages - after that it becomes negative - a similar picture is shown by detailed analyses of the wage calculator (

Despite these developments in the labor market, many employees would like to work at least until they reach their normal retirement age, or would have to do so in order to receive a reasonably decent pension. However, the number of unemployed people over the age of 55 is steadily increasing. For this reason, the unions are demanding the following points:

  • Long-term employees over 50 years of age should be particularly protected against dismissal, as is already regulated in some collective agreements. This protection against dismissal also gives employers an incentive to look after their staff better (training and further education, health protection). Contrary to what is often claimed, this additional protection does not act as an obstacle to re-entering the job market. It is tied to the length of service and does not act as a deterrent when hiring a new employee.
  • Older unemployed people must have better chances of finding a job again. The job registration requirement decided by the National Council and Council of States must now be consistently implemented so that older job seekers who are currently disadvantaged receive an advantage.
  • Employees (and the unemployed) should be given the right to a professional assessment and career advice (e.g. from the age of 45). They should be able to count on more support in terms of training and continuing education, e.g. through additional offers and information measures in sectors with collective agreements. The federal government and cantons must make access to the EFZ easier.

In parallel with the preventive measures mentioned above, it is absolutely essential that the existing gaps in social security in the pre-retirement age are finally closed. Against this background, the introduction of a bridging benefit for older unemployed people proposed by the Federal Council is an extremely important step and is very much welcomed by the unions.

It should be possible to work beyond the normal retirement age, but this should not result in financial or hierarchical pressure to the detriment of employees and the labor market. On this premise, the unions are in favor of making the retirement age more flexible, provided that it is open and accessible to all employees. This means that people with medium and lower incomes must also be able to retire earlier rather than having to work longer.

Making retirement age more flexible can create jobs, especially for younger people. It therefore seems to make little sense for jobs to be filled by people who would have been retired 10 years ago. But this also means that our occupational pension system enables everyone to continue to live a life of dignity, at the latest after reaching their regular pension. Anyone who has not benefited from a second pillar during their working life and receives a minimum AHV pension can hardly speak of a dignified life. Such people - those affected by old-age poverty are primarily women - could be forced by financial hardship to continue working after retirement, even though they are physically no longer able to manage, for example, to sit at a cash register for eight hours a day. On the other hand, the transfer of know-how, especially company-specific know-how, from experienced to younger employees is extremely valuable. The unions therefore encourage employers to design internal succession arrangements with cross-generational tandem solutions, e.g. job sharing with partial retirement models (if this is financially viable). It would be desirable if the sustainable effect of such models were given greater weight than is all too often the case when looking at them from a purely financial, short-term perspective.

Toya Krummenacher

President of the Basel Trade Union Federation

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