Switzerland should encourage older people to work longer, says OECD


23/10/2014 - Switzerland should do more to help older people, especially women, work longer in order to meet the challenge of a rapidly ageing population, according to a new OECD report.


Working Better with Age in Switzerland (in French) says that Switzerland has one of the highest employment rates for older workers in the OECD. In 2012, 70.5% of Swiss aged 55-64 were in work, well above the OECD average of 54%. Switzerland’s exceptionally strong performance is attributable to the high proportion of men and university graduates in this age group that are working (respectively 79.5% and 85%). But this rate is much lower for women (61.5%), particularly if they are non-graduates (49%).


In addition, once older workers lose their jobs, it is often difficult for them to get back into the labour market: over half (59%) of unemployed Swiss workers aged over 55 had been out of work for more than 12 months in 2012, up from 40% a decade ago and above the OECD average of 47%.


Encouraging more people to keep working would strengthen the funding of the pension system, which has, unlike most other OECD countries, seen few reforms since 2003. Current efforts, in particular the pension reform Prévoyance vieillesse 2020 under discussion and the initiative to combat the shortage of skilled workers, are steps in the right direction, says the OECD. But more needs to be done to effectively boost the productivity of older workers.


Among its recommendations, the OECD says Switzerland should in priority:


  • Help women by promoting their employability, make it easier for them to balance work and family life throughout their careers and remove work disincentives in the tax system and the pension system;
  • Make training more attractive for low-skilled workers and encourage enterprises to keep training them until the end of their careers;
  • Encourage social partners and pension funds to reduce incentives for early retirement in their second pillar schemes;
  • Support the action of the Public Employment Service in helping older workers, particularly aged 60-64, find stable jobs; 
  • Improve the targeting of social assistance budgets for the older unemployed to help them back into work;
  • Encourage social partners to link pay more to experience and performance than age;
  • Combat age discrimination. It remains legal in Switzerland, unlike almost all other OECD countries, and is quite common.


For further information or comment, journalists should contact Anne Sonnet (+33 1 45 24 91 69) of the OECD’s Employment, Labour and Social Affairs directorate. The report is available on request to


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