The real issues in our pension system

 

Sir, – During the general election campaign, the raising of the pension age to 67 next year emerged as an important issue, as your editorial confirmed (“Pensions – avoiding the issue is not an option”, April 30th).

Among other reasons, many people are angry because they are being forced on to unemployment benefit or means-tested assistance before they get the pension to which they are entitled after decades of work.

Far from avoiding the pensions problem, the Stop67 campaign ensured that it was an issue during the campaign and its significance was reflected in the unexpected outcome of the election.

It is widely acknowledged that the proposal to increase the pension age was ill-thought out and indifferent to the social impact it is causing. There was no national consultation or effective parliamentary debate on the issue. The only body to study the impact of increasing the pension age – the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection – unanimously recommended in 2017 that the increase be suspended. This was endorsed by TDs and Senators from all political parties, including Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

The arguments justifying the pension age increase tend to be selective and lacking context. For example, on current trends, the old-age dependency ratio will more than double up to 2050. What is rarely mentioned is that national output per worker will more than treble. It is rarely mentioned that by 2050 and beyond, Ireland will still be spending less on pensions as a proportion of national income than most EU countries spend today.

We already have one of the highest pension ages in the EU even though we have the youngest population. It is projected that by mid-century our pension age will still be above the EU average while we will continue to have the youngest population.

We need coherent, evidence-based policy, not a litany of assertions. That is why the Stop67 campaign, comprising Siptu, the National Women’s Council of Ireland, Age Action, and Active Retirement, has called on the incoming government to stop the pension age increase.

We have also called for a stakeholders’ forum made up of representatives of government, trade unions, employers and civil society to agree policy on the State pension, on pension age and age discrimination, living standards in retirement and a sustainable funding model.

Otherwise we risk economically inefficient and socially unsustainable policies that avoid the real issues in our pension system.

Anything less would also ignore the votes of so many people who opposed the increase in the pension age to 67 next year. – Yours, etc,

JOE CUNNINGHAM,

General Secretary, Siptu;

ORLA O’CONNOR,

National Women’s Council;

PADDY CONNOLLY,

Age Action;

MAUREEN KAVANAGH,

Active Retirement,

Dublin 7.