Switzerland is one of the few among developed countries where employers are allowed to stipulate in job advertisements what age and gender they require job candidates to be.
This dated practice is banned in the United States and Canada where it is considered discriminatory and is frequently the subject of civil actions; neither does the European Union allow it.
Switzerland does not have a specific laws banning age discrimination. Many employers lay off competent workers from age 58 onwards as a social cost reduction measure. At the same time, there is widespread concern about the growing gap in the state pension fund. Typically less than 1% of job advertisements seek older workers while there is intense competition among employers for skilled workers in the 25-40 age group.
The liberal think tank Avenir Suisse estimates that over the next 20 years the Swiss work force will shrink from 5 million to 4.5 million due mainly due to demographics – older workers don’t work longer and there are not enough younger workers entering the work force. Fewer workers will finance shrinking tax and social security bases.
In addition, Swiss direct democracy has resulted in 2 related decisions impacting on the public finances. In September 2017, voters rejected a wide-ranging overhaul of Switzerland’s old-age pension scheme to be financed by raising value added tax, the third unsuccessful reform attempt in almost 20 years. Previously, in 2014, Swiss voters decided to restore quotas on EU workers entering Switzerland – so, in addition to natural demographics, where are new workers coming from to replace those prematurely existing the work force?
Ironically, this will result in a re-prioritisation favouring Swiss workers, but there will be a smaller and older labour pool to choose from. A smaller tax base coinciding with a constantly rising share of planned spending in federal and cantonal government will reduce the Swiss public’s margin for manoeuvre to continue the efficient management of a low tax economy. In turn, this will impact on industrial and economic competitiveness.
Add to these factors the fact that Swiss life expectancy is among the world’s highest, it is apparent that national labour law as well as industrial and social security policies are in need of urgent and significant re-alignment in order to maintain the existing high standard of living.