10.21.1.30 Social Security System in Switzerland

Switzerland's social security system

Swiss social insurance is based on a 3 pillar system of public, occupational and private insurance:

  • first pillar - OASI/DI - compulsory covers old-age, disability and survivor's pensions - pays pensions intended to cover basic living costs (covered by the Agreement),
  • second pillar - occupational benefit plans scheme (a personal pension scheme - obligatory for salaried workers), and
  • third pillar - optional - a form of savings which offers certain tax benefits.

Old-age pension

This pension is paid to people who have reached retirement age, of 64 years of age for women and 65 years of age for men. Partial pensions can be payable with a minimum of one year's contribution. A full pension would require contributions for each year since the age of 21.

Disability pension

A disability pension can be paid to people assessed as at least 40 per cent disabled. Full or part pensions require the same period of contributions as for old age pension. Minimum pensions can generally be paid to foreign nationals with at least 3 years of contributions or 10 years of continuous residence in Switzerland. (Prior to 1 January 2008, only one year of insurance was required).

Survivor's pensions

Survivor's pensions can be paid to:

  • a widow with one or more dependent children, or
  • a widow aged 45 or older who was married to the deceased for at least 5 years, or
  • a widower with one or more dependent children younger than age 18, or
  • a divorced spouse who has one or more dependent children and was married to the deceased for at least 10 years (in some cases, other conditions of age and duration of marriage apply), and
  • orphans younger than age 18 (age 25 if a student or an apprentice).

As of 1 January 2007 Swiss same-sex registered partnerships have been regarded in the same way as a marriage as far as social security is concerned. A surviving registered partner has the same rights as a widower.

Full or part pensions require the same period of contributions (by the deceased) as for old age and disability pensions.

Supplementary benefits

Supplementary benefits may be payable to old age, survivor's and disability pensioners who are permanent residents of Switzerland. Although payable under separate legislation not within the scope of the Agreement, they may be payable to Australian citizens receiving an extraordinary pension after 5 years of continuous residence in Switzerland (see Article 15 of the Agreement). Supplementary benefits are means-tested and are disregarded under the Australian income test for Australian pensioners who are residing in Switzerland or who move from Switzerland to a third country (see Article 20 of the Agreement).

Swiss extraordinary pensions, helplessness allowance and rehabilitation measures may become available to Australian nationals living in Switzerland. Portability of these payments would be according to Swiss legislation.

Swiss pensions - payability abroad

Swiss pensions are not generally payable abroad except under a social security agreement.

Act reference: SS(IntAgree)Act Schedule 20 Switzerland

Policy reference: SS Guide 10.21.8.60 Exempt Payments - Agreement with Switzerland, 10.21.3.20 Benefits Payable under the Agreement with Switzerland

Last reviewed: 4 January 2016