It's a sentence that caused violent reactions at the beginning of this week: "We will gradually have to go up to the retirement age of 70 years - also because the age continues to rise."
That's what the president of the employers' association, Stefan Wolf, said in an interview with the newspapers of the Funke media group and promptly aroused the anger of trade unions, leftists and social organizations. Left parliamentary group leader Dietmar Bartsch even spoke of "antisocial bullshit". But what's behind the excitement? Here are the most important questions and answers.
What is the starting position?
In Germany, the retirement age is to be gradually increased from 65 to 67. For those born in 1964 or later, there will definitely be a standard retirement age of 67 in the future. A further increase is not planned so far. Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil (SPD) clearly rejects older age. "We have agreed in the coalition that we will not raise the statutory retirement age. And that will not change," he said just a few weeks ago. He considers the discussion about a pension at 70 to be a "phantom debate".
What do economists say?
They see the issue differently. For example, the economist Bernd Raffelhüschen from the University of Freiburg, in an interview with the "Bild" newspaper, described the proposal by the head of Gesamtmetall as "right and important". Working until 70 helps against poverty in old age and relieves the pension fund, which is about to collapse, says Raffelhüschen. Other experts, such as "Economics" Monika Schnitzer, have come to the same conclusion.
So is there no alternative to working until 70?
"No way," says Sebastian Klüsener, research director at the Institute for Population Research (BIB). He basically states: "Live longer generally means that we will also work longer." However, no automatism towards retirement at 70 can be derived from this, says Klüsener of the dpa. "A blanket increase to such an old age is not an optimal solution."
The expert still sees potential elsewhere, for example in the labor market participation of women, who are currently still often working part-time. Overall, he recommends a more flexible system. "In general, it would be good if the labor market were designed in such a way that older people can adapt their employment relatively flexibly to their private and health situation."
Economics Veronika Grimm also advocates taking into account the individual performance of people in old age: "Ideally, it is possible to shape the career path in such a way that people in old age do jobs that are affordable," says Grimm of the "Rheinische Post". So far, many have retired early because they could no longer do their jobs. "You have to open up new avenues there with foresight," she demanded. Keyword further education. This could help to close gaps in the shortage of skilled workers.
Why do unions and leftists strictly reject retirement at 70?
They fear some kind of fraud against working people and point out that people in some professions - such as heavy physical work - would not even last until 65. Population expert Klüsener also says: "We are currently seeing that many are already leaving at the age of 63."
Trade unions and social organizations argue that employees would end up drawing their pension for a shorter period and would lose twice as a result. Instead, they call for a fundamental debate about the financing of statutory pension insurance - for example about a new model that also integrates groups such as the self-employed and civil servants as contributors.
Population expert Klüsener also points to an aspect of justice that could be neglected if there were a flat-rate increase to 70: the average life expectancy of higher qualified people is significantly higher than that of people who work in the low-wage sector, says the expert. The latter could ultimately be the losers of such a blanket increase.
What will it look like in a few years?
The data from the Federal Statistical Office indicate higher employment in old age. From 2010 to 2020, the labor force participation of people between the ages of 60 and 64 rose from 41 to 61 percent. This can also be observed among older people: in 2020, the proportion of employed persons between the ages of 65 and 69 was already 17 percent, while in 2010 it was still 9 percent.
Whether the curve continues to rise and whether the pension system can be financed also depends on the level of immigration and on digitization and mechanization in the world of work, says BIB expert Klüsener. Depending on how things develop, it could become necessary to adjust the retirement age again in the 2030s.