For members


What will Switzerland’s Covid-19 pass allow you to do?

Switzerland’s Covid-19 pass is being rolled out, but confusion remains on what exactly it will allow you to do. Here’s what you need to know. 

What will Switzerland’s Covid-19 pass allow you to do?
Switzerland's Covid-19 immunity pass will launch this week. Photo by Fabian Hurnaus on Unsplash

Swiss President Guy Parmelin said in early June that anyone who chose not to get vaccinated “would have to face the consequences”. 

“Your own freedom stops where the freedom of others begins. That has to be a consideration” Parmelin said. 

On Monday, June 7th, Switzerland finally released its Covid-19 certificate, which will provide certain rights and privileges to holders for travel and events. 

UPDATED: Everything you need to know about the ‘green pass’, Switzerland’s coronavirus immunity card

The Covid-19 certificate – otherwise known as the Covid-19 pass or the green pass – is available in paper and digital form. 

According to the Swiss government, the pass “provides documentary evidence that you have had a COVID-19 vaccination, have had and recovered from the disease or have tested negative”. 

But while international travel will be one of the major privileges of the pass, little is known about what it will allow you to do domestically. 

What will Switzerland’s Covid-19 health pass allow you to domestically? 

Internationally, Switzerland’s Covid-19 pass will link up with that of the EU, thereby allowing relatively uniform rules for travel. 

Domestically however, the controversial pass has been subject to political debate. 

While the Council of States and the National Council want it to provide almost a complete return to normality, Switzerland’s far-right SVP are skeptical of the plan and have sought to oppose it. 

In a vote on June 8th, the SVP argued that the certificate should only be used for international travel along with attending large events of more than 5,000 people and attending nightclubs and dance events – and that it should only apply until September. 

This proposal was however rejected by the National Council. 

How will the Covid-19 health pass work? 

As at June 9th, it appears that the health pass – also known as a Covid-19 pass, Covid certificate, green passport or Covid passport – will operate on a three-tiered colour system. 

Three colours – green, orange and red – will be assigned to different areas of life in Switzerland. 

Those areas designated green will be deemed as elementary to life and therefore protected by basic freedoms – which means that the Covid-19 pass will not be required to access these areas. 

This includes shops, schools and educational facilities, the workplace (including canteens), public transport and religious venues. 

READ MORE: How to get Switzerland’s Covid-19 health pass

Private events will also be deemed ‘green’. 

The next category, orange, will relate to places which are popular with people but not fundamental, for instance bars, restaurants and cinemas. 

Events with up to 1,000 attendees will be included here, such as trade fairs, sporting events, etc. 

Amateur sport and activities of cultural associations will be included here, as will visiting old people’s homes. 

In ‘orange’ places, operators will be given the freedom to decide which rules they put in place – and whether they require attendees or customers with the health certificate or not. 

If venues do require certificates, they will be allowed to relax other rules, such as those requiring masks or social distancing rules. 

Finally, red areas include “sensitive epidemiological areas” which will require additional protection. 

These will include larger events (more than 1,000 people) and international travel, along with nightclubs and larger events involving dancing. 

Please note that this is still subject to ongoing debate and may therefore change. 

More information is available here from the Swiss government (in English). 

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For members


OPINION: A lower retirement age for women in Switzerland can no longer be justified

Having a lower retirement age for women is a throwback to more patronising times, yet the Swiss government has struggled to introduce parity in this area for decades. As the latest reform attempt comes to a popular vote, Clare O’Dea asks what’s behind female resistance to this change.

OPINION: A lower retirement age for women in Switzerland can no longer be justified

The retirement age in Switzerland is 64 for women and 65 for men. For generations of Swiss people, this differential treatment is standard. The gap used to be bigger. From 1962 to 1997, women retired at 62.
On September 25, Swiss voters will have their say on a reform of the state pension system (AHV / AVS), which would raise the retirement age for women to 65 and use a VAT hike to help finance pensions. The Old Age and Survivors’ Insurance has been running a deficit since 2014 and this reform is billed as a crucial package to keep it viable.

Is earlier retirement for women a historical benefit worth defending or should it be abandoned in the interests of fairness and financial good sense? If women voters alone could decide, the proposal would be rejected.

READ ALSO: Reader question: How long must I work in Switzerland to qualify for a pension?

According to the most recent poll, 64 per cent of women intend to vote against the reform, while 71 of male voters approve of the law. This is a much higher gender difference than is usually seen, even in sex-specific voting issues. These numbers, if sustained, would ultimately deliver a yes vote but leave a bitter taste for women.

As a woman who will be directly affected by this decision in the not-too-distant future – well, 15 years from now – and someone who made all the classic gender-based “mistakes” when it comes to my own pension provision, I don’t see this potential change as a threat. If anything, it is an opportunity, a wake-up call.
Swiss women earn less than men over their lifetimes for several well-documented yet seemingly unshakable reasons. Mostly these relate directly or indirectly to time spent caring for children or other family members.

Caring responsibilities, even the hypothetical possibility of such responsibilities, influence women’s career choices, the number of hours they work, and their income. This burden also influences how women are perceived and rewarded as employees.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How does the Swiss pension system work – and how much will I receive?

But there is also a kind of fatalism on the part of women in long-term partnerships who know they can’t sustain a career as the “main earner” without a “wife-like” partner to rely on, so they do not try. Divorced women usually find it’s too late to catch up.

Three things that are bad for pension provision are career interruptions, part-time hours and lower pay. Yet this is the norm for most working women over the long term, mothers in particular.

As I see it, there are three ways to improve matters. Either women change to behave more like male workers, the system changes to accommodate existing patterns better, or we change the existing family patterns altogether.


The problem is that mother workers can only become more like father workers when men pick up the slack (choosing family-friendly jobs, reducing their hours, taking family-centred career breaks, leaning in at home). Where else will the spare capacity come from?

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about retiring in Switzerland

I think all three changes need to happen in parallel. Some progress has already been made. There is no point in hanging around with the retirement age reform. It’s one of the few changes that can be achieved with the stroke of a pen.

Those campaigning against harmonising the retirement age say that all the other things dragging down women’s lifetime earnings – the structure of the labour market, lack of affordable childcare, gender pay gap, the persistence of traditional gender roles – need to be fixed first before we demand an extra year of work from women. That seems defeatist and totally impractical to me.

The priority for all is to avoid women having a much greater risk of poverty in old age as they do now, especially divorced women and widows.

Swiss women currently receive 37 percent less than men through all three types of pension provision combined – the state pension, occupational schemes and private pension. The picture in Switzerland is worse than in most industrialised countries because of the prevalence of part-time work for women – a double-edged sword.

Swiss voters turned down two previous proposals to level up the retirement age for women – in 2004 and 2017. However, taking into account the compensatory measures included in the current reform, that potential extra working year should not be viewed as a penalty.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Can I take my pension money with me when I leave Switzerland?

If that year is spent working, not only will the women have their salary, but they will also have the opportunity to contribute a bit more to the two other streams of pension funding – occupational pensions and voluntary private pensions.

Working also means being physically active, having more social interactions and stimulating your brain. These are all pillars of brain health that help protect against the onset of dementia, a disease that women are twice as likely to suffer from.

The absolute refusal to acknowledge that an ageing population and increasing life expectancy require changes to long-standing pension norms is one of the blind spots of the Left in Switzerland. According to the UBS International Pension Gap Index, the proportion of active (working) to retired people will decrease from the current level of 3 to 1 down to 2 to 1 by 2050.

The reasons why Swiss women should retire one year earlier than men are lost of the mists of time. Well, not quite, there was some talk of “physiological disadvantage” and wives keeping their older retired husbands company. It seems rather silly now.

The final justification left for an early exit from the workforce is that it offers some compensation for all the other financial injustices. That’s a passive rather than an active approach to our problems. I see this reform as part of the solution. Let’s get on with it.