Germans should work until 67: minister
The retirement age in Germany will rise as planned from 65 to 67, Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday, as Europe's top economy battles the constraints posed by a shrinking population.
"The government has arrived at the conclusion that we need to stick to this law," said von der Leyen, confirming the implementation of legislation agreed three years ago that would see the retirement age rise progressively.
Given the rise in life expectancy and the fact that pensions run for longer, an increase in the retirement age is "a question of fairness," the 52-year-old mother of seven said.
The move has been hotly disputed, with some opposition centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) and unions against lifting the age, which will apply incrementally from 2012 and will be fully in effect by 2029.
Members from the IG Bau construction union demonstrated outside Chancellor Angela Merkel's office with walking frames.
"This is what you are going to see soon on German building sites," said Matthias Kirchner from the union.
Earlier this month, the federal statistics office published data showing the scale of the demographic challenge facing Germany.
There were 665,126 babies born in Germany last year, by far the lowest since records began in 1946. Twice as many were born in 1964, at the height of the baby boom.
"We know that the situation on the job market for the oldest people has improved," said Martin Dietz from the Institute for Employment Research (IAB).
Nevertheless, "among those over 60, we are still a relatively long way away from the employment rates we have for those aged between 30 and 50," he noted.
In addition, older workers "have more and more problems reintegrating on the jobs market," he said.
Throughout Western Europe, countries have faced determined opposition to attempts to reform the pension system to reflect demographic realities.
Weeks of protest greeted plans in France to hike the retirement age to 62, with more than a million people marching in towns and cities and frequent strikes bringing the country to a standstill.
© 2010 AFP