Incoming IHS boss says pension age must rise

The designated chief of the Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS) has called for an increase of the retirement age.

Christian Keuschnigg, who is set to succeed Bernhard Felderer as head of the renowned research group next month, said such a measure would not cause an unacceptable amount of pressure on the Austrian social systems. Keuschnigg claimed the various generations would be able to cope with the various effects caused by such a reform.

Economists have appealed on the government coalition of People’s Party (ÖVP) and Social Democrats (SPÖ) to do more about the low pension age to avoid a collapse of the subsidisation of benefits and labour market initiatives. Felderer said the attitude of people would change if those who retire before reaching the regular retirement age were forced to accept more significant financial disadvantages.

Men must work until 65, according to the law, but official figures show that the average retirement age for male workers and employees is 58.9. Women retire at 57.7 on average instead 60 in Austria. The average real retirement age for European Union (EU) residents is 63.

Pension system expert Bernd Marin said the coalition must finally crack down on retired politicians’ pensions. He said the sums ex-lawmakers and former National Bank (OeNB) managers were receiving were inappropriately high compared to their contributions to the pension system. Marin called for higher taxes on such pensions.

Marin said he had little understanding for the high number of Viennese civil servants who retire at a young age. The social systems researcher underlined that workers and nurses in other European cities were working much longer than their Austrian counterparts. Marin criticised that many of those quitting early in Vienna had jobs in public administration.

Civil servants must work until 61.5. The retirement age for public pensioners in Vienna will rise to 65 in 2014. The real retirement age for them is just 57.1 years. Most of civil servants employed by the city of Vienna who opt for retirement ahead of the regular pension age are fire fighters, nurses, carers and paramedics.

The Viennese ÖVP, which is not part of the city coalition formed by the SPÖ and the Greens, warns that the indebted city faced additional costs of 200 million Euros a year due to the increasing number of invalidity pensions among public servants. The party appealed on SPÖ Vienna Mayor Michael Häupl to finally take action. Almost half of the 990 civil servants who retired in Vienna in 2011 did so ahead of the regular pension age.

A countrywide survey by public opinion agency Karmasin shows that just 16 per cent of Austrians thin that the regular pension age should be 70. A vast majority of 80 per cent speak out against an increase of such extent. The target of SPÖ and ÖVP is to increase the real age for retirement by three to four years until 2020. Higher investments into health awareness programmes and checkups offered to employees for free are considered by government officials as a crucial aspect to achieve this goal.