Eight in 10 say no to significant pension age hike

A vast majority of Austrians object to ideas of a drastic pension age increase.

Only 16 per cent think that the regular retirement age should be 70, public opinion research group Karmasin said. The agency interviewed 500 Austrians for magazine profil. Karmasin found that 81 per cent of Austrians were against proposed increases of the pension age to 70.

Law says that Austrian men must work until 65. Research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that men working in Austria retire at an average age of 58.9 years instead while women quit aged 57.5 instead of after reaching an age of 60.

People’s Party (ÖVP) Interior Minister and Federal Workers’ and Employees’ Association (ÖAAB) chairwoman Johanna Mikl-Leitner recently dismissed accusations by the opposition that the government’s latest pension reform lacked structural changes. She emphasised that her party and the Social Democrats (SPÖ) agreed as part of the latest budget consolidation package that the average pension age must rise by three to four years by 2020.

Pension system experts warned that the coalition’s measures might be formulated too vaguely for substantial improvements while SPÖ Labour Minister Rudolf Hundstorfer admitted that an increase of only two years in the coming five to seven years was more realistic. The current average for the real retirement age of residents of the European Union’s (EU) 27 members is 63. Japan tops the OECD’s comparisons for both men (69.7 years) and women (67.3).

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt recently infuriated labour unions and opposition politicians by calling for an open debate about whether people should work until 75. Nine in 10 Swedes are against the conservative politician’s idea, according to an online poll by newspaper Aftonbladet. European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Laszlo Andor has appealed to the Austrian government to jack up women’s pension age sooner than planned.

The ÖVP’s women’s organisation welcomed the idea. It stressed that women’s pensions were often significantly lower than men’s if they quit earlier since this meant they often lost out on the highest-possible incomes of their careers. SPÖ Women’s Minister Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek rejected the ÖVP’s initiative. The minister said she would not support such initiatives as long as enormous gender income disparities and other inequalities remained to dominate the domestic labour market.

Austrian men’s life expectancy rose from 32.7 years in 1868 to 77.7 years in 2011 (women: 36.2 years to 83.2 years). Steadily increasing life expectancy rates and a growing awareness for healthy lifestyles made entertainment industry, advertisement experts and marketing managers in Austria and abroad to focus on this new generation of Best Agers. Promotion campaign organisers also speak of a new age group called Swinging Sixties while others labelled today’s pensioners as Silver Surfers.

The Austrian SPÖ-ÖVP wants to increase the number of older people in work by increasing investments on illness precaution courses, health checks and part-time programmes for experienced staff. Some labour market analysts think that a rise in youth unemployment could be one of the consequences if the coalition succeeds. Other experts are certain that the domestic economy has the potential to employ more people of all age groups than ever before due to the urgent demand for highly qualified manpower.