For Kevin Kühnert, the idea is a “feeling derailment”. “The SPD will not allow pensioners to be declared drivers of inflation and economic risk factors,” says the Secretary General of the Tagesspiegel with a view to a push by economists to review pensions from 70 because of inflation and the shortage of skilled workers.
“That’s disrespectful. Many of them are already not reaching retirement age in the profession they have learned because they can no longer do it, because hard work is hard on the bones,” says Kühnert.
Kühnert is referring to demands that economists formulated in the “Bild” newspaper. There, the following context was argued: Demographic change means that there are fewer workers. The competition for skilled workers has intensified and wages have risen, which in turn has fueled inflation.
The conclusion: A higher retirement age leads to more workers – and thus counteracts inflation. “The mix of aging society, high levels of debt and energy transition will pose an increasing threat to price stability in the coming years,” said Stefan Kooths, Vice President of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
Economic researcher Gunther Schnabl confirms in the “Bild”: “Germany already has a huge problem with skilled workers, hundreds of thousands of jobs are unfilled.” When asked by the Tagesspiegel, he explained: If you follow the hypothesis described, then an increase in the labor supply could lead to an increase in wages and prices are toned down. “This can be done by raising the retirement age, shortening the training periods and increasing the employment rate.”
The professor at the University of Leipzig and longtime critic of the expansive monetary policy of the European Central Bank (ECB) does not want the labor market to be seen as the main cause of inflation. “On the one hand, a lot of money was brought into circulation, which is driving prices up,” says Schnabl. “On the other hand, the low interest rates and the ECB’s government bond purchases favor regulation.” In his view, this is the reason for the current inflation.
Other economists are also skeptical about raising the retirement age to combat inflation. This is not an effective measure, said Sebastian Dullien, scientific director of the Institute for Macroeconomics and Business Cycle Research of the Hans Böckler Foundation, which is close to the trade union, in the Tagesspiegel.
“Inflation is currently being driven by high energy prices and high food prices, not excessive wage pressures,” he says. “An extension of the retirement age does not help against these high energy and food prices.” Neither in Germany nor in the most important countries from which the Federal Republic imports, a lack of workers is currently a relevant inflation factor.
Unsurprisingly, retirement at 70 is unlikely to find many supporters among the general public. The average age at which people actually retire in this country is 64.2 years, according to the German pension insurance. People who draw a regular old-age pension for the first time this year would actually have to wait 65 years and eleven months before they can draw a pension without deductions. By 2031, this limit is to be increased to 67.
However, there are exceptions. Those who were born in 1957 and have accumulated 45 insurance years can retire this year at the age of 63 years and ten months without any deductions. Those who “only” have 35 years of insurance can already become pensioners if they were born in 1957, but they have to accept pension reductions of 10.5 percent.
In the coalition agreement, the SPD, FDP and Greens decided not to raise the retirement age any further than already decided, nor to lower the pension level in this legislative period. Pension experts take a critical view of this. Almost a year ago, the Scientific Advisory Board at the Federal Ministry of Economics warned of “shock increasing financing problems”. “In the next three or four years, the baby boomers will retire, which means there will be more than three million new pensioners,” said advisory board member and pension expert Axel Börsch-Supan in an interview with the Tagesspiegel. “If you leave everything as it is, it has to be financed somehow.” The Advisory Board therefore recommends linking the retirement age to life expectancy. According to current projections of life expectancy, with such a rule, the retirement age would reach 68 in 2042.
How emotional the whole thing is – and a mobilization topic for the SPD after the recent election defeats, is already clear from Kühnert’s choice of words. “The SPD does not accept that the subject of inflation is always being used by the same people to make their wet neoliberal dreams of the past come true today in the face of threatening social imbalances.” The problem is not the pensioners or future pensioners, ” the problem is that wages are too low,” emphasizes Kühnert. “That’s what the unions are fighting for in the current collective bargaining rounds. And we in the federal government are making sure of that by raising the minimum wage to 12 euros and strengthening adherence to collective bargaining agreements, so that government contracts are linked to fair wages.”
He is trying not to let this debate even arise – Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) is also against it.
“For many people, longer working lives simply mean more uncertainty. And in times of crisis, that sends the absolutely wrong signal,” Kühnert makes clear. “Pensioners who open the newspaper today and have to read that the operating profits of most DAX companies have just increased massively, but that you yourself are a problem with your average pension of €1,200 will rightly feel treated with disrespect .”