I have been entrusted with a study concerning old people social protection in Europe, a task that, thanks to the foreign colleagues’collaboration, led us to write the report presented during this Euromeeting 2003 in Majorca, first in Spanish and afterwards translated into German, French, English and Italian.
In this report we want to compare the social protection in the eigth member countries of our Group (Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, United Kingdom, Sweden). We analyse the different aspects that perjudice this social policy such as: medical insurance, oldage pensions, disability, widow and orphanage’s pension, all the legal requirements to draw a full pension (age, contributions, etc), the maximum and the minimum sum of the full pension, the way to update periodically the purchaising power in each country, the early retirement, the post retirement, pension supplements and taxes compared to salaries. It also sums up the main pensioners’ demands in these countries. We have also included some figures from countries which do not belong to our Group.
In this article, due to a small place, we can analyse only the situation of private companies’ employees, even if our European Group (Rambla de Méndez Núñez, n.º 15 - 03002 Alicante - Spain) will send the whole report to everyone interested in it (free). You can request it by e-mail too: email@example.com.
In Europe the main pension system is called ‘solidarity between generations’. We (current pensioners) have paid social security contributions so our predecessosr would draw a pension. The generation of working age (our children) do the same so we (the current pensioners) could receive our pension and our grandchildren will pay social security contributions so their parents (our children) would receive theirs. These pensions are derived only from workers’ contributions. In that case, the future of this system depends on the balance between contributions and pensioners. If we want this system to be successful all the workers should support for pensioners and we have to do the same with the future pensioners, our children and our grandchildren.
In all these European countries the gouvernment updates the purchasing power every year, every six months, every three months or occasionally. Generally this process depends on the Retail Price Index (RPI) and, in some cases, on the Salary Index or both of them (RPI and Salary Index).Another pension system is the “capital system” spread in Sweden and voluntary in the other countries as supplement of the solidarity system between generations. Pensions depend on the capital saved during all life but, in the absence of a private insurance against currency devaluation, it is impossible to know the purchaising power that our pensions could have in the long term.
In Denmark, Sweden and Norway the only requirement to receive a pension is to have been living in these countries for 40 years during the working age (from the age of 15 to 65i), even if this system is going to be reanalysed. The Swedes who were born after 1938 have a mixed system: solidarity and capital. Lastly, in every country exist no-contributions pensions (benefits) which are paid by taxes.
THE CRISIS OF THE SOLIDARITY PENSION SYSTEM
Nowadays the solidarity pension system is living a difficult period in all countries. The extention of life expectancy, thanks to the improvements in health measures, and the birth rate decrease cuased the increase in the avarage retirement age. We also have to consider that the late entry into the labour market, the unemployment, temporary jobs, early retirements and preretirements have reduced contributions and caused the pensions’ Fin financing imbalance. The so-called “demographic bomb”, will deepen with the retirement (between 2010 and 2020) of children born during the “baby boom” (after the war). I personally believe that this situation will ease thanks to the inmigrant wave, younger and more prolific than the European popolation, a figure that the statistical studies did not considered.
The principal measures are: to prolong the contribution period, to prolong the working age and to avoid preretirements, even if it is hardly mentioned the reduction in public spending and in the current employment policy, which could probably be a good solution to the problem.
The requirements to draw a pension are: minimum age, a specific period of contributions and, in Denmark, Norway and Sweden 40 years working in the country. The mimimun age is 65, except for France (60 if the worker have been paying social security contributions for 40 years and, from now on, 42). In Sweden the minimum age is 65, but if the life savings are considerable it is 61. In Norway and in Denmark the age is 67 years old. In almost every country it is nedeed a specific period of contributions: 30 years in Portugal, 35 in Germany, Spain and Italy, 42 (now) in France and in the others this requirement has been replaced by life savings. Women retirement age is lower than men’s one, in Belgium 63, in Italy and the United Kingdom 60, even if it going to reach the same retirement age than men.
The early retirement is possible from 55 to 61 years old, depending on the country, with a variable reduction coefficient. Except for Belgium, it is also possible to postpone retirement and increase it. In Germany, Spain, Portugal and Sweden it exists a partial retirement which reduces the pension but it allows employees to get a part-time job.
Preretirement has been recently created in Europe to solve the problem of surplus of staff in many public and private companies. It consists in a pay permission (a percentage of the salary) until the retirement age. Pensioners enjoy the same health services than active employees even if, except for Spain, they have to pay a percentage of medicines and visits, with some exceptions for minimum pensions. In Italy medicines can be: free, half free and pay medicines. In Sweden pensioners pay an annual maximum sum of 200 € a year.
In Spain, the National Social Services Institute offers more than 400.000 journeys, in the low season and for 15 days, to pensioners with a minimum pension.
Pensions and salaries have more or less the same taxes, except for Italy where maximum pensions have an extra solidarity contribution equivalent to 2% if pensions exceed by 68.172 €. In Sweden pensioners do not have to pay any housing tax and the disabled have special cares and benefits. In Portugal the tax system is different from the salary system. In Spain the disabled whose degree is between 33% and 65% have a reduction in the taxable income equivalent to 5.108’60 € and for those whose degree exceeds 65% the reduction is equivalent to 6.911’64 €.
José Lidón Meseguer
President of Honor of our Group