For many people, the premise of retirement is a daunting reality. In the United States, Social Security being underfunded means that benefits for retirees can barely cover their cost of living. In Russia, proposals to raise the state pension age for eligible men from 60 to 65 by 2028 would mean that the age of retirement would equal the life expectancy of males in the country.
Unlike the precarious positions in those and many other nations, Switzerland prides itself upon having what is considered by many as the best pension system in the world. Swiss laws create a three-pillar pension system that includes a state-run and private pension scheme along with favorable tax rates on voluntary plans that coalesce to make retirement a more certain reality for the Swiss citizenry. That's why one Swiss man --- err, woman -- has taken advantage of another law in order to retire earlier.
Currently, the basic, state-run AHV pension scheme implemented under article 112 of the Swiss Federal Constitution sets the retirement age for men at 65 and at 64 for women. For one resident of the Canton of Lucerne, waiting an extra year to retire was simply out of the question. So he decided to legally change his gender to become recognized as a woman under Swiss law and thus be able to retire a year sooner.
Last year, the Swiss Parliament amended its civil code and civil status ordinance to cut through red tape and enable citizens to change their names and genders more easily. That legislation took effect on January 1st, 2022. Following the passage of those amendments, the task of legally changing one's gender was made so simple that all it takes is a 10-minute phone interview and a one-time fee of about 75 Swiss Francs. The prerequisite phone screening merely exists to ensure that the applicant is of sound mind and is capable of making the decision on their future. The ease of fulfilling those requirements makes the task of changing one's legal gender all but automatic under current Swiss law.
Legally changing one's sex in the wake of this new law going into effect does not require the need of any medical or psychological examination. In fact, Swiss civil registry officials tasked with fulfilling this process have been advised not to police any potential misconduct for fear of being deemed transphobic and making the government agencies liable to civil lawsuits. With that political climate enveloping this issue, the Lucerne man was able to have become legally recognized as a woman and thus be eligible to retire a year earlier in the time it would typically take to order a cup of coffee. With her new identity in hand, the sooner-to-be retiree will be eligible for a civil pension of between 13,990 to 27,981 Swiss Francs to be paid out in a lump sum on a yearly basis in 2024.
Despite the presumed good intentions behind the changes to the Swiss civil code and civil status ordinance, critics warned of inevitable abuses when arguing against the legislation last year. While it would be reasonable to characterize the initiative of the Lucerne resident as an "abuse" of this policy change, it might be more fair to say that they have simply played the system to their advantage. As satirical as this story sounds, perhaps its absurdity will serve as a wake up call to governments across the world with the hubris to believe that man-made law is somehow able to supersede the laws of nature.