Switzerland’s population structure has changed considerably over the past few decades. The demographic ageing of Switzerland’s population has an impact on many areas of life. Health topics, employment, retirement and old-age provision are at the heart of the social and political discussion.
The ageing of the population is mainly driven by three factors: low fertility rate, longer life expectancy and migration.
Fertility in Switzerland has been low for several decades whereas the birth rate remains relatively stable. While at the start of the 20th century the fertility rate was still 3.7 children per woman, in Switzerland a woman has today on average 1.5 children. This is leading to a decrease in the number of young people in society. This phenomenon is called “ageing at the bottom” of the age pyramid.
The average life expectancy has doubled since 1878. Increasing life expectancy has led to “ageing at the top” of the age pyramid.
While both of the specified factors continue to lead to an increase in the average age of the population, migration contributes to attenuating the ageing phenomenon. Details:
The old age provision reports provide an overview of the protection of employed and retired persons by means of the old age provision system. The system is also known as the «three-pillar system» and is comprised of the old age and survivors' insurance (AHV/AVS), occupational pension plans (BV/PP) and the third (3a) pillar (private pensions).
In 2020, 216 143 people received at least one new benefit from the old-age provision system (excluding double counting). While a majority of all new OASI pensioners received their old-age pension at the legal retirement age, the first receipt of PP and pillar 3a benefits is handled more flexibly with 42% (PP pension), 43% (PP lump-sum), and 54% (pillar 3a lump-sum) of all new benefit recipients already receiving a retirement benefit before the legal retirement age in 2020.
Differences can be seen in the level of benefits from the various pillars: Across all age groups, the median new OASI old-age pension in 2020 was CHF 1787 per month. The level of new pensions from occupational pension plans was slightly lower at CHF 1692. The median lump-sum withdrawal from occupational pension plans in 2020 was around CHF 100 000; that from the 3a pillar CHF 45 681.
When interpreting pensions and lump sum withdrawals from the occupational pension plan, it should also be considered that there are distinct differences between the genders in terms of access to and the amount of benefits. Men received around twice as much as women in benefits from the 2nd pillar in 2020.
From the age of 50, the older people become, the more their activity rate (share of economically active persons) declines. Whereas 90% of men and 82% of women were still working at the age of 57 (period 2018-2020), at the age of 64 the activity rate of men was 56% and that of women at age 63 was 52%. At age 65 36% of men were still economically active and at age 64 28% of women.
The average age on leaving the labour market was 65.1 in 2021. On average, men leave the labour market somewhat later than women (average of the past five years: 0.9 years later).
In the period from 2018-2020, the early retirement rate of people one year before ordinary (legal) retirement age was 39% (at age 64) for men and 30.4% (at age 63) for women.
In 2021, the number of persons aged 65 or more per 100 economically active persons aged 20 to 64 was 36.2.
The health of senior citizens is very heterogeneous in terms of age, gender, level of education and place of residence. 76% of people aged between 65 and 79 years living in private households report being in (very) good health compared with 64% of people aged 80 and over.
Care due to health reasons
In 2017, 15% of people aged 65 and over used informal care due to health reasons and 8% used home care services. By contrast, the share of older persons who helped their relatives or acquaintances was 31%.
Home care services
More than 70% of the 370 000 people receiving professional home care services are at least 65 years old. The number of hours of care received increases with age.
Nursing homes accommodate older persons who require long-term care. 15% of persons aged 80 and over live in a nursing home; three quarters of their residents are women.
Hospitalisations increase with age. Almost a quarter (23%) of persons aged 65 and over are hospitalised at least once a year.
Causes of death
Half of persons who die are aged 84 and over; almost nine in ten are aged at least 65 years. Cancer is the main cause of death among older persons between the age of 65 and 84 years. This is superseded by cardiovascular disease from the age of 85.
Many older persons are involved in activities to assist parents, acquaintances, their children or associations. In this way, they make an important voluntary contribution to the accomplishment of tasks that are necessary to the community.
In 2018, 72% of grandparents regularly or occasionally looked after their grandchildren. Among those with one or more grandchildren under the age of 13, 40% looked after a child at least once a week, 18% at least once a month and 14% less than once a month or during holidays. Grandmothers looked after their grandchildren more often than grandfathers.
The total volume of non-remunerated work for the care of grandchildren was estimated at 160 million hours in 2016 which represented a monetary value of CHF 8.2 billion. Details:
In 2020, the participation rate of persons aged 65 to 74 years in formal and/or informal voluntary work was 45%. This rate remains above the Swiss average (population aged 15 and over: 41%), although the overall decline in participation compared to 2016 was more marked for this age group. Details:
Other indicators relating to voluntary work, self-assessment of one's own health, support from family and friends and older persons’ consumer habits are also available. Details:
Statistical sources and concepts