SWITZERLAND - The Swiss public is to vote on Sunday on changes to first-pillar pensions and a one percent hike in value added tax to fund old age and invalidity pensions.

The state pension or AHV, Alters- und Hinterbliebenen-Versicherung, is set to be changed for the 11th time in seven years with the latest amendment likely to be one of the most debated issues in Swiss politics.

Supporters of the VAT raise argue it is a necessary step on the way to developing the secure the future of the scheme, currently funded by contributions of employers and employees.

But some argue that women and widows, who may be losing some of their benefits, would lose out.

In the May 16 vote citizens will also vote on increasing retirement age for women by one year, bringing the pension age to 65.

In the Zurich canton, according to Swiss media, there is going to be a vote on general tax cuts for pensioners, but big parties have so far not shown much interest.

A person familiar with the situation told IPE it was impossible to forecast Sunday’s votes because those “vocal” about the issues at stake seem to have evened out between those pro and anti.

Gauging the mood of the “silent majority”, the person said, is more difficult.

The “vocal” people who support the reforms say that it is time action was taken to help face the challenges brought by weaker markets and demographic changes.

Anti-reformers claim that if the economy picked up, the system would need only a few changes.