Harassing firms must pay, pensioners say

Austria’s pensioners have called on the government to introduce laws which would up the pressure on “bullying” companies.

Andreas Khol, who heads the country’s Association of Conservative Pensioners, said: “Firms which bully employees and force them to retire prior to the regular pension age should be obliged to come up for the costs the state is confronted with by such actions.”

The chief of the Social Democratic Pensioners’ Union, former Social Democratic (SPÖ) Interior Minister Karl Blecha, pointed out that around seven in 10 of all people who retired last year did so before having reached the mandatory pension age. Austrian men are supposed to work until they turn 65 while women are asked not to quit before having reached the age of 60.

The government coalition of SPÖ and Vice Chancellor Michael Spindelegger’s People’s Party (ÖVP) hopes that the average pension age rises thanks to increasing investments on sickness prevention courses, new kinds of health checks and part-time programmes for elderly employees and workers.

Experts warn that the planned labour policy reform could lead to a further rise in youth unemployment. There around 75,000 NEETs in Austria at the moment. The term describes everyone aged between 16 and 24 who jobless and not in education. Austrian men’s life expectancy jumped from 32.7 years in 1868 to 77.7 years in 2011 (women: 36.2 years to 83.2 years). There will be as many pensioners as employed people in Austria in 2030, according to investigations. Research also shows that people in retirement will in the majority by 2050.

Khol appealed on the Social Democrats and the ÖVP to consider introducing anti-job bullying programmes as already in effect in other European countries in Austria where over 91,000 people retired in 2011. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said men working in Austria retire at an average age of 58.9 years. Women quit aged 57.5, according to the OECD.

A poll by Karmasin showed that, with 16 per cent, fewer than one in five Austrians are of the opinion that Austrians should be forced to work until 70. The Viennese research group found that a vast majority (81 per cent) oppose such ideas. Johanna Mikl-Leitner, who heads the Federal Workers’ and Employees’ Association (ÖAAB), said the government coalition’s target was to create a rise of the pension age “by three to four years” until 2020.

The current average for the real retirement age of people in the European Union (EU) is 63. Among the OECD’s member countries, Japan has the highest average age for both men (69.7 years) and women (67.3). The Austrian government said in February it plans to spend 750 million Euros on job incentives for elderly people in the next five years. The Labour Market Service’s (AMS) budget will not rise, according to SPÖ Labour Minister Rudolf Hundstorfer. The minister underlined the need to cut public spending while critics made aware of a predicted increase of unemployment in the country.