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Occupational Pension reforms for improved equality and its ambivalent consequences on gender relations upon retirement: the Swiss Model

Caroline Henchoz

Research Framework: Inspired by European debates on the individualization of social rights, the AVS (assurance-vieillesse et survivant suisse [Federal Old-age, Survivorsand Invalidity Insurance]) introduced individual and universal access to pensions. This system is now less dependent on salary and marriage, which in a country where the majority of women work part time, was seen as advancement in equality.
Objectives: The objective of this article is to pursue this statement.
Methodology: This work is based on statistics and nearly thirty interviews conducted with retirees to analyze the strategies used to implement this revision and to measure its effects.
Results: It shows that this reform struggles to implement equality. Our interpretation is that this attempt to implement measures to create an equal standard and marriage solidarity, contributes to perpetuating economic inequality between the genders upon retirement. On the household level, this change simply bolsters a domestic economy founded on the complementarity of gender roles. Through individual policies, some women may benefit from a new economic independence, though they nevertheless continue to use it in accordance with the logic of care in which they were socialized. However, they are better empowered while working for the well-being of their loved ones. This gain is, at best, a marginalempowerment as the gendered use of money does not call into question the power relationships that exist between couples.
Conclusions: Simply put, a policy that promotes equal treatment is insufficient for the attainment of equality if it does not introduce measures to correct the effects of heavily gendered life courses.
Contribution: This article contributes to research into gender, life stages and public policy by discussing the effects felt by a specific group of retirees by revealing the individual and institutional mechanisms of resistance to change and the perpetuation of inequalitydespite the best intentions of the legislator.