Work longer, only where?

A good year before the increase in the retirement age, the Bundestag is today discussing the opportunities for older workers. Federal Minister of Labor von der Leyen wants to stick to the much-criticized pension at 67. The opposition does not see the preconditions for it given.

In 2007, the CDU/CSU and SPD in the grand coalition jointly agreed to gradually introduce retirement at 67 by 2029. It was also determined at that time that the government must analyze the employment opportunities of older people for the first time in 2010 and then on a regular basis. In mid-November, Leyen presented a report on this topic entitled "Towards an age-appropriate working world," which has now been debated in parliament. In her speech, the minister underscored the growing employment opportunities for older people. Nevertheless, in the age group from 60 to 65, only 23.4 percent still have regular employment subject to social insurance contributions.

During the debate, Leyen reiterated that she will not back down from the decision to raise the retirement age: "Retirement at 67 is demographically and financially indispensable."But it’s good that there’s still a 20-year transition period ahead," he said: "That means everyone involved has plenty of time to adjust."A longer working life is also necessary to counter the shortage of skilled workers in the coming years. "When, if not now, will we dare to embark on an age-appropriate world of work?" asked the Minister.

Gabriel speaks of "sleight of hand"
Although the SPD had recently spoken out in favor of suspending retirement at 67, SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel declared his support for it. Raising the retirement age is one of the possible responses to demographic change and its consequences for pension insurance. The prerequisite, however, is that older people have a chance of employment until they retire. This is also what the law passed in 2007 provides for.

The government is undermining the law with "sleight of hand" and embellished figures on the employment of older people. Civil servants, mini-jobs and one-euro jobs are irrelevant for meaningful statistics. The focus, she said, must be on employment subject to social security contributions.

Demographic change alone will not help to get older people into work or keep them there. "So you have to do something to help older people find employment," Gabriel called out to von der Leyen. Otherwise, the increase in the retirement age would mean a reduction in pay because they would have to retire earlier with deductions. For a great many people who will only be able to work 500 to 1.000 a month, this would be unacceptable, said the SPD chairman: "People will have to go to the trees when they hear that this pension is to be reduced for them as well."

"Humanization of the world of work"
Like the CDU/CSU and FDP, the Greens also professed their support for raising the retirement age. "We are against the abolition of the pension at 67, and we also do not find the suspension, as the SPD proposes, convincing," said Wolfgang Strengmann-Kuhn, a member of parliament. "Most people would like to work longer if they could."What is needed, however, is a comprehensive campaign to humanize the world of work.

Only the Left Party argued categorically against retirement at 67. Party leader Klaus Ernst calculated that only 8.3 percent of men and 3.4 percent of women would still have a full-time job subject to social insurance contributions at the age of 64. For her, the longer working life means a reduction in pensions. The alternative would be to increase the contribution rate by just 0.5 percentage points in 2030. The monthly cost is less than the price of a pint of beer, he said. "I haven’t found anyone yet who wants to work two years longer because of one less Mab Bier a month," Ernst said.

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