Inheritance in Switzerland increases but its taxation decreases

Inheritance in Switzerland increases but its taxation decreases

The volume of inheritance in Switzerland should reach a record breaking amount of CHF 95 billion in 2020, which represents an estimated average of 11'000 CHF per capita. According to the last report of the Social Change in Switzerland series, inheritance plays a more and more important role in the fortune of Swiss people, since half of this fortune comes from inheritance. In parallel, taxation on inheritance has globally decreased to reach an average of 1.4% against 4.1% in 1990 in a context of fear of tax evasion. With his article, Marius Brülhart shows that this fear is not verified and that inheritance therefore represents an unexploited tax base.

95 billion is the total sum of inheritances in Switzerland projected for 2020. This amount represents half of the country's wealth today. But this large sum is less and less subject to taxation. In Switzerland, inheritance tax has risen to an average of 1.4% compared with 4.1% in 1990, with some cantons having even abolished this tax. The decrease is partly explained by tax competition, which was a strong argument in the various votes on this subject. However, the fear that fortunes will move to another canton if the tax on inheritance is too high is only "presumed", as Marius Brülhart, professor of economics at the University of Lausanne, proves. Tax competition between the cantons has therefore created a significant untapped tax base that could be used to invest in future public services without any major side effects. With a return to the 1990 tax rate of 4.1%, each canton could generate CHF 2.5 billion.

Older and older heirs
The Swiss are receiving their inheritance later and later in life. 60% of the beneficiaries are people over 60. The trend in donations during life is also on the rise and now accounts for 30-40% of the total volume of inheritances. The impact of inheritances on social inequalities has yet to be studied. On the other hand, inequalities in the distribution of wealth are increasing in Switzerland. Today, 1% of the population holds more than 40% of the total private wealth, compared to around 32% in 1982.

The Social Change in Swizerland series documents the evolution of social structure in Switzerland. It is edited jointly by the Swiss Center of expertise in social sciences FORS, the Life course and inequality research Center LINES and the Swiss National Center of Competences in Research LIVES – Overcoming vulnerabilty: Life course perspectives. The goal is to retrace change in employability, family, income, mobility, votation or gender in Switzerland.

Season's greetings!

Season's greetings!

The NCCR LIVES wishes you that 2020 marks the beginning of a journey full of wonderful surprises.

Best wishes for this new year!

See the animated version of this card on our Vimeo platform. 

Dario Spini, Director

Eric Widmer, Co-director

Colloque LINES / LIVES "Parcours de vie et inégalités sociales"

The Effect of Unemployment Insurance Design on Low Birth Weight and on Partners’ Work Effort

Introduction of the SNF research project, “Family Models and Unemployment: How Intra-Household Economics Moderate the Effects of Unemployment Insurance Design” and presentation of some results from the first two papers. Both papers use quasi-experimental designs looking at changes in unemployment insurance benefits (UI) and use administrative data. In the first paper, the researchers explore how partners within a household support each other during periods of unemployment and how that changes as unemployment insurance benefits erode. It is known that in low-earning or young married households, women increase their incomes when their husbands lose their jobs, called the “Added Worker Effect” or AWE. However, it is not known whether the AWE exists for men nor whether it holds in non-traditional families—a rapidly growing demographic. In this paper the researchers examine the AWE effect for men and for those in non-traditional families. After examining the overall AWE, they consider changes when UI is reduced. In the second paper, they explore the impact of UI generosity on birthweight. It has been shown that UI generosity contributes to better health. However, they do not know: whether these effects extend to family members of the unemployed and whether health effects of UI vary depending on partners’ income. This study addresses these gaps by examining how UI reductions impact the birth weight of children of both women who are themselves unemployed and those who have unemployed partners, for both considering whether partner income buffers the detrimental effects of UI cuts.

Home: a key resource for seniors

Home: a key resource for seniors

The fourth edition of the "Age Report – Habitat et vieillissement : Réalités et enjeux de la diversité" explores the question of housing among elderly people in Switzerland. This report co-directed by Dario Spini (NCCR LIVES) proves the centrality of home in the life of the elderly. Seniors’ satisfaction in terms of housing has globally increased but strong inequalities remain, depending on the linguistic regions and between city and countryside. This is notably linked to the variable economical situation of seniors, one elder in five being at risk of financial precarity. The report presents recommendations and challenges for the future of elderly persons in Switzerland, a population that keeps growing.

The satisfaction linked to the housing conditions hasn’t stopped increasing since 2003, thanks to the comfort of the housing by itself, the neighborhood, the environment as well as the attachment to the living place. Despite these improvements, housing is still a tough challenge, especially for more vulnerable elders. Indeed, one elderly person in five is at risk of financial precarity. According to this study, retired people in Switzerland are globally satisfied by their financial situation, even though big differences exist depending on the linguistic region. This feeling is indeed inferior in the French- and Italian-speaking parts of Switzerland.

This report also presents multiple recommendations and challenges concerning the growing population of elders in Switzerland. 

  • Ensure material security – Housing should be a place prone to answer needs in terms of quality of life for the totality of seniors, independently of their specificities and potential vulnerabilities. 
  • Integrate the interpersonal network – Family and interpersonal network of seniors contribute to the reflection on the privileged living place (apartment, at home care, nursing home, etc.). Taking these relationships into account is important to improve elders’ quality of life.  
  • Considering alternatives – Alternatives to the traditional home and to nursing homes should be developed, in order to better answer seniors’ specific needs, for whom staying home still is a priority. Recommendations like apartment-sharing or specialised units in retirement homes are evoked. 
  • Implicate seniors in decision making – Nursing homes can be considered semi-private spaces, where a lot of decisions are made for the seniors and their living conditions, sometimes without consulting them. This report invites to think about these questions to guarantee personal fulfilment and respect of their private space.

More generally, this book wants to encourage reflection on elders’ living place, by taking into account their large diversity, by including as many influencing factors as possible. Researches conducted as part of the Age Report are an essential tool for field professionals and public authorities representatives.

"Age Report IV - Habitat et vieillissement : Réalités et enjeux de la diversité" is the fourth edition of a report studying the elder population in Switzerland. Co-directed by François Höpflinger (University of Zurich), Valérie Hugentobler (Haute école de travail social et de santé Vaud) et Dario Spini (NCCR LIVES), this book is published by the Age-Stiftung Foundation and supported by the Leenaards Foundation. Based on more than 2'500 interviews and covering the different Swiss linguistic regions, this report focus itself in this edition on the living place. Available in French and German.

Greated risk of long-term unemployment for older workers

Greated risk of long-term unemployment for older workers

In Switzerland, seniors suffer from discrimination during the recruitment process. Although less crucial for managerial jobs, age seems to be a decisive factor in obtaining an employment contract. Employees at the end of their careers who return to work also make significant wage concessions.

Conducted by sociology professor Daniel Oesch, this study shows that employers tend to prefer younger profiles for jobs involving routine or physically demanding tasks. Indeed, although present in all job categories, this discrimination is observed in a slightly different way among blue-collar workers and clerks, affected as early as age 50, and upper-level white-collars employees, who suffer from these difficulties 5 years later.

In addition, salary is another obstacle to the hiring of experienced employees. Although employers agree that wages should increase with work experience, they are not willing to make this investment and continue to favor the hiring of younger employees. The data collected show that, unlike younger workers, older workers who find a new job sacrifice a significant part of their last income, up to 17%. 

People over 50 are less likely to be unemployed than young people, for whom going through unemployment box is more frequent, but who find a new job more easily. This study shows that the duration of unemployment as well as its consequences and induced vulnerabilities are more important for people close to retirement age. In a context where the governments of Europe, including Switzerland, are tending to raise the retirement age, it is urgent to address these issues so that workers at the end of their careers can reintegrate more easily into the labour market.

* LIVES Working Papers is a work-in-progress online series. Each paper receives only limited review. Authors are responsible for the presentation of facts and for the opinions expressed therein, which do not necessarily reflect those of the Swiss National Competence Center in Research LIVES.

GT 29 AISLF Théories critiques - sociologies critiques (Tunis 6-10 juillet)

L'AISLF (Association internationale des sociologues de langue française) lance un appel à communications pour le Congrès GT29 - Théories critiques, sociologies critiques - qui se tiendra à Tunis, du 6 au 10 juillet 2020.

Informations et délais

Un espace public fragmenté ? Les médiations de la critique en question

L’espace public s’est constitué comme intermédiaire entre la sphère privée et le pouvoir politique (État). Il exige des sujets qu’ils fassent un «usage public de leur raison», en exerçant leurs capacités de jugement et de critique sur des questions d’intérêt général. De la part des participant·e·s, cela suppose une aptitude à formuler des énoncés sous la modalité du raisonnement public, et d’élever des propositions générales recevables par un public élargi. Prendre part à cette dynamique de formulation publique suppose une attitude critique. Cette aptitude à adopter le point de vue d’un « autrui généralisé », la posture générale d’un public composé d’agents délibératifs, renvoie en outre à une morale publique. Elle est le soubassement d’une critique politique du pouvoir et l’instance d’un contre-pouvoir.

Les expériences négatives et les blessures morales n’ont, en revanche, pas ce degré de généralité : elles sont situées, elles engagent des corps, des émotions et des sensibilités pratiques. Les travaux sur les « contre-espaces-publics » ont mis en évidence la nécessité d’une telle affirmation de particularité pour faire exister ces critiques. Pour être audibles publiquement, un travail de formulation et de construction de généralité s’impose. Des processus et des espaces ancrés de coordination, de construction et de médiation de la critique sont donc nécessaires. Le travail pratique d’expression, de formulation, et de généralisation rend cette expérience publiquement exprimable. Ce processus médiateur est nécessaire pour passer de l’expérience morale négative à l’expression publique et à la critique au sein d’un espace public politique. Associations, syndicats, organisations politiques, sont autant d’instances de traduction d’une critique pratique (personnelle, singulière) en une critique publique et politique.

À l’heure de la « crise des médiations », mais aussi de l’explosion des revendications de singularité, et d’une tendance du pouvoir politique à se replier sur lui-même en se fermant aux exigences de la société, ce travail de médiation de la critique semble compromis de toute part. Lorsqu’il est fermé à toute contestation et sourd à toute critique, le pouvoir politique alimente d’ailleurs de tels processus de repli – en inhibant d’emblée toute contribution issue des espaces informels d’expression et de mobilisation.

Un des risques de cette situation est la fragmentation de l’espace public en sous-espaces d’expression confinés. Cela peut être le cas des espaces délibératifs en ligne qui s’articulent autour d’une affirmation de singularités propres à des sous-espaces spécifiques. Cela peut être aussi le cas d’autres processus par lesquels les logiques expressives exclusives restent consignées à des espaces restreints, sans articulation publique et politique. Le risque est alors une fragmentation de l’espace public en sous-espaces singuliers incapables de porter des critiques et des revendications capables d’atteindre un degré de généralité pour être recevables dans un public politique élargi. L’espace public perd alors sa capacité à être un contre-pouvoir et le lieu d’un « pouvoir communicationnel ». L’essoufflement des médiations de la critique et l’incapacité croissante des espaces intermédiaires à assurer leur rôle de « caisses de résonance » de la critique pratique rend cette tâche d’autant plus ardue. C’est une des menaces qui pèsent à l’heure actuelle sur l’espace public.