The German government’s pension reform: A travesty for pensioners in poverty

Published on WSWS, by Sybille Fuchs, September 17, 2011.

The recent “ reform plans” of Ursula von der Leyen (conservative Christian Democratic Union), Germany’s federal minister for labour and social welfare, are supposed to prevent poverty among the elderly. In fact the plans are not worth the paper they are printed on. The proposed tax-financed increase in pensions for low income earners will not prevent poverty in old age … // 

… Working despite being retired:

More and more retirees are taking on marginal part-time and temporary jobs (office cleaning, delivering newspapers, etc.) to supplement their pensions. The established political parties interpret this to mean that these elderly people still feel quite fit, and the retirement age can therefore be further increased. In fact, most working retirees seek employment simply because they cannot live on their pensions.

Coming into retirement are an increasing number of people who have been unemployed or marginally employed, and therefore receive very inadequate pensions. Consequently, the number of working pensioners has increased by 60 percent within a few years. In 2010, about 660,000 people between the ages of 65 and 74 were employed in marginal jobs. According to the welfare associations, this amounted to an increase of 244,000 over the year 2000.

There has been an increase in the number of pensioners who were able to bring themselves to apply for the so-called basic state welfare benefits in addition to their normal pension. However, the number was still quite low at approximately 400,000 in 2009. It had only been 258,000 in 2003.

The increase in old-age poverty is primarily due to the widespread low-wage employment sector—for which the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Greens are responsible—and Von der Leyen’s cuts in the social welfare budget.

The federal minister only recently made drastic cuts in her budget for the poorest of the poor in order to make savings for other already underfunded programmes. Typical in this respect is the “education package” for poor children, which deliberately allows discrimination and stigmatisation to flourish for the sake of reducing costs. In order to fund the “educational package”, for example, the state will no longer contribute to pension insurance for the long-term unemployed.

The termination of pension contributions in this area alone will bring savings of €2 billion from the welfare budget each year. Poverty in old age will also be augmented by the cuts in disability pensions for people whose working hours are limited because of ill health.

As in society as a whole, the incomes of the elderly are very unevenly distributed. There is certainly a layer of well-insured pensioners who have been able to secure a good retirement income due to the long-term employment and relatively high wages they enjoyed. However, such a happy outcome has in recent decades been denied to a growing percentage of the population in the wake of the economic crisis, neoliberal economic policies and particularly the introduction of the Hartz welfare regulations by the SPD-Green government.

The press has recently taken up the case of former East German female divorcees who accumulated only a limited number of pensionable working years, because they were raising children. They receive paltry monthly pensions of between €250 and €650, but no compensatory maintenance contributions from their former husbands, because such a provision was not incorporated into former Stalinist German Democratic Republic (GDR) law—nor was it part of West German law prior to 1977. Politicians of the established parties cynically exploit the current legal situation, hypocritically regretting that the state “can do nothing” for these women.

These and other elderly people reduced to living in poverty can only be helped by an unconditional basic income financed from the taxation of society’s super-rich. (full long text).

Links in english: (my comment: bancs have to be saved, peoples may peg out).

Links in german: (Mein Kommentar: Banken müssen gerettet werden, Bürger dürfen verrecken).

… and also this:

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