|Old-age insurance & survivors' benefits|
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INHABITANTSOld-age insurance & survivors' benefits
General overview and legal bases
Insurance for elderly people and survivors (Assurance de vieillesse et de survivants, l’AVS) is governed by the Federal Law on Old-Age and Survivors’ Insurance of 20th December 1946 (LAVS) and is the largest branch of Swiss social security. The social and political aim of the insurance is to reimburse, at least partially, someone’s loss of income, due to old age or the death of the family breadwinner. AVS covers every member of the Swiss population.
AVS pensions aim to cover the basic needs of retired people, widows, widowers and orphans in an appropriate manner. The amount of annuity depends on the paid up contributions; if they are insufficient, they are consolidated with supplementary benefits.
AVS is only one part of the security system for elderly people and survivors. It is the first of three pillars that are set out by the Federal Constitution, the second one is the occupational benefit plan and the third is the individual contingency (savings or private insurances).
Sharing of the AVS
AVS is organized according to the principles of distribution, solidarity and equality between men and women.
The principle of distribution establishes that the current contributions pay the current benefits. The working population finances the AVS pensions; it is a contract between the generations.
The principle of solidarity implements the transfer of income from the rich to the poor. Indeed, the contributions are collected on the total income whereas the benefits have an upper limit. For pension calculations, income is only taken into account six times the annual minimum pension; the paid contributions on the income that exceed the amount are a solidarity tax for the person with a low income and for the spouses who do not pay any contributions.
The principle of equality between men and women establishes that each person, whatever their civil status may be, has an individual right to a pension. The incomes of spouses are shared during their married life; they are ascribed half to the wife and half to the husband (“splitting”). The spouses get individual pensions with a maximum limit of 150% of the maximum basic pension. Widowers are now entitled to a pension if they have children under the age of 18 years. Tasks that are not remunerated such as child raising or care-taking, mostly carried out by women, are recognized by the AVS; they lead to an increase in pensions.
Request for an old-age pension
Pensions are not automatically paid; a request must be sent, around three months before the date of your right to a pension, to the compensation fund (caisse de compensation) to which the most recent employer of the future pensioner is affiliated. The list of funds can be found in the telephone directory under the heading “Caisse de compensation” as well as on the last page ,where they are listed according to their numbers; the relevant fund numbers are written on your AVS card.
Requests should be made by means of completion of the application form entitled “request for an old-age pension” (demande de rente de vieillesse) issued by the fund (it can be requested by phone); this must be returned (or given in person at the office) together with all insurance certifications (grey cards) of the person who is requesting the pension, their spouse and children, all the cards with the AVS stamp of the insured person and of their spouse as well as identity papers (for example official family record book, certificate of citizenship, residence permit, document receipts, passport, foreigner record book) which allow to clearly identify all persons mentioned in the request. If a child between 18 and 25 years is in education, a document indicating the start and expected end date must be submitted (for example an apprenticeship contract or a certificate from the school).
The application forms are also available at the local AVS agency where you live.
The tax office must also be notified about three months before the beginning of your pension so that monthly payments are reduced.
Request for survivors’ benefits
The right to entitlement begins on the first day of the month, following the death of the spouse, ex-spouse or one of the parents.
The person who wishes to assert their right to survivors’ benefits should submit an application to their most recent compensation fund into which the contributions of the deceased were paid.
Application forms are also available at the local AVS agency where you live or at the AVS compensation fund.