CESI@noon – Fighting for adequate and sustainable pensions
This week CESI and its member organisations came together to discuss the White Paper put forward by the European Commission on “An Agenda for Adequate, Safe and Sustainable Pensions”. The event marks the second CESI@noon in 2013, and so becoming a regular feature in the CESI calendar.
The event follows two position papers issued by CESI on the topic of pensions, allowing participants to raise continuing concerns and engage in a fruitful debate with representatives of the European Institutions who hold key positions at the heart of the issue.
The main points of concern for CESI and its member organisations remain the same: addressing demographic challenges across Europe and ensuring sustainable funding for pensions, all this in the context of economic crisis causing pension systems in all countries to come under increasing financial pressures.
These events’ discussions were centred on the 3 pillar system for pensions (state, occupational and private). With regard to the third pillar, in a great deal of cases private pensions are simply unaffordable. Secondly, there are instances where occupational pensions are not allowed by law; this is the case with the public sector in Luxembourg. Thirdly, we are now entering a stage where even the first pillar is becoming detrimentally affected by the crisis and austerity.
A representative of the European Commission presented the challenges facing Member States in addressing pensions. Not only is it a question of pension reforms, but the Commission sees a role for labour market reforms. One concern raised by many participants was the increasing retirement age. The current situation sees many countries addressing the challenge of an ageing population by raising the age of retirement.
On behalf of CESI, President Romain Wolff, who also chaired the event, raised concerns on the simplicity behind the Commissions argument: “In raising the retirement age, Member States create certain situations in which there are workers who are unable to perform the tasks asked of them. This is simply a question of physical limitations.” Serious concerns were also voiced on the damaging impact of working longer on the quality of life after retirement.
The Commission representative anecdotally referred to a changing attitude of Member States, with a new will to act in common, demonstrated by the recent controversy surrounding tax evasion. CESI agrees that this is an issue of common concern, but does not share the same optimism on the willingness of Member States to resolve the pension problem.
As rapporteur for the European Parliament report on ‘Towards adequate, sustainable and safe European pension systems’, CESI welcomed Ria Oomen-Ruijten MEP to contribute to the discussions. Ms Oomen-Ruijten appealed to people to assume some responsibility and underlined the importance of saving for pensions. To be able to save, the MEP advocated the introduction of a tracking system for people to follow their social security contributions so they are more informed about the amount accrued for later life.
In the event’s closing remarks, Klaus Heeger, Secretary General of CESI called for the involvement of Trade Unions in the follow up on the European Parliament’s report .Ms Oomen-Ruijten reacted positively, offering her support and help in ensuring the opinions of the social partners are taken into account.