I was very pleased to receive so much – positive and critical – feedback on my latest column on the upcoming revision of the OASI legislation. The purpose of my blogs is to initiate a discussion of the issues Helvetia Insurance considers urgent. Reform of the pension system has been one of my key concerns for many years. It is about maintaining social cohesion and achieving a cross-generational solution. In the future, we want our children and grandchildren to have secure pensions like the ones we enjoy.
The longer we put off reform, the more expensive the final bill will be and the less scope we will have to make improvements. The arguments people put forward against their own better judgement in opposition to OASI reform – such as widescale disadvantages for women and insupportable pension cuts – are irresponsible. Failure to take the first step with the OASI reform would likely also lead to political gridlock on revision of the statutory framework of the second pillar. That would play into the hands of those who wish to water down the occupational pension system, or even abolish it altogether, in order to expand the first pillar.
What they blithely ignore is the indispensable social safeguard the pension funds provide in addition to retirement pensions, namely protection against the risks of death and disability. The benefits they offer are frequently far more generous than those of the first pillar and can be easily tailored to the specific needs of the companies and their employees. With the majority of pension funds and collective foundations, for instance, the benefit amounts depend on the insured salary, thus ensuring the employee’s accustomed standard of living regardless of any shortfalls in contributions. Unlike with OASI/IV, survivors’ benefits are paid not just to members of traditional family units, but in many cases also to de facto partners, affording patchwork families and unmarried couples an important form of protection. In the occupational pension system, employees and employers can together discuss and define different parameters that apply company-wide – whether it be determining the nature and amount of benefits, protecting part-time workers or increasing the size of the employer’s contribution. Particularly in times of a skilled-workers shortage, this can offer companies an advantage in recruiting and retaining talented workers – one that ought not to be underestimated.
We should not jeopardize this unique social achievement. Only by taking initial steps towards reform of the first pillar can we pave the way for the reforms needed to secure the second pillar in the long term and do justice to the transformation taking place in society and the working world.