The outcome on these two issues remains uncertain, according to the polls.

After two failed attempts in 2004 and 2017, Bern hopes to finally garner enough votes to "stabilize" the Swiss old-age insurance system, which is under enormous pressure as life expectancy increases and the giant generation of baby boomers reached the age of leaving working life.

The most controversial part of the reform would require women – like men – to work until they are 65, before they can claim a full pension.

A year older than now.


Parliament last year approved the key measures, which also include a VAT hike, but left-wing parties and unions denounced the reform "on the backs of women" and forced a referendum.

Less money, work longer

For those in favor of the reform, asking women to work for one more year is not unreasonable in the light of economic and demographic data.

But opponents of the reform argue that women continue to face significant discrimination and a wide pay gap in Switzerland.

They believe it is unfair to raise the retirement age for women without first addressing these inequalities.


In 2020, women in Switzerland received on average nearly 35% lower pensions than their male counterparts, according to the Swiss economy ministry.

However, polls indicate that Swiss voters, who have twice rejected government pension reform plans, are now more supportive of the reform.

In a recent Tamedia poll, 55% of respondents backed him.

But this figure hides a dissension between the sexes: if 70% of the men questioned support the reform, 58% of the women oppose it.

No intensive farming?

Another hotly debated topic in Sunday's poll is a proposal to ban intensive livestock farming, essentially eradicating factory farms in a country that is still very rural even though agriculture weighs relatively little in the national wealth.

The animal rights and protection organizations behind the initiative want to make protecting the dignity of farm animals like cattle, chickens or pigs a constitutional requirement.


"We believe animal agriculture is one of the defining issues of our time," animal welfare group Sentience, which forced the vote, said on its website.

If accepted, the initiative - which enjoys the support of left-wing parties, Greenpeace and other environmental organizations - would impose stricter minimum requirements for animal-friendly housing and care, access to exterior and slaughter practices.

It would also significantly reduce the maximum number of animals per enclosure, with the new requirements also extending to imports of animals and animal products.

The government and parliament oppose the move, insisting that Switzerland already has one of the strictest animal welfare laws in the world.

According to current laws, farms cannot keep more than 1,500 fattening pigs, 27,000 broilers or 300 calves, which excludes the gigantic factory farms found in other countries.

Not a farmer

Bern warned that these new rules would cause prices to rise significantly, while the import clause could impact relations with trading partners.

Such arguments seem to have convinced a growing number of Swiss, with the latest gfs.bern poll giving the "no" side the lead, with 52% of respondents opposed to this decision.


Farmers seem particularly skeptical, with opposition rising to 62% in rural areas, while 53% of city dwellers say they support the change.

Most people in Switzerland vote early in these polls, which are held every few months.

Polling stations only open for a few hours on Sunday before closing at noon (10:00 GMT).

The first results are expected in the early afternoon.

© 2022 AFP