SWITZERLAND – A top Swiss economic official has said demographic developments might mean that the statutory pension age will have to be raised.

Jean-Daniel Gerber, director of the state office for economy, Seco, said in a speech recently: “Switzerland’s labour market is pretty flexible.”

But he added: “Measures will have to be taken, options include raising the retirement age or the participation rate.”

This view contrasts with the union view. Colette Nova, executive secretary of the Swiss trade unions’ association, Union Syndicale Suisse, called for all workers to be offered the chance to retire early. She said keeping the early-retirement option at 62 was “a necessity” and “a principle of social justice”.

She went on to criticise the first pillar pension law, known as AVS, which seems to offer limited solutions for workers on lower wages in need of early retirement.

“For those who cannot retire early but cannot go on working there is no other solution left but the invalidity pension,” she said, calling for the early retirement option to be introduced to every worker.

“The payment of an AVS first_pillar pension in case of the working life ended between 62 and 65, is the best way to do justice,” she said.

Referring to defeat of Parliament-backed plans to cut benefits to the first-pillar pension provisions, rejected by voters last May, Nova said the suppression of “the measures to lessen the effects of early retirement, extremely modest and insufficient” had contributed to the success of the referendum against the 11th revision of the first pillar.

Nova also said that early retirement had been promised for years and it was now time such promises were kept.

At the same time, she vowed that the USS, also known as SGB, would fight “every covered-up attempt to increase the pension age, which must not be over 65.”