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Pensioners working more 'to avoid old-age poverty'

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Photo: DPA
12:44 CEST+02:00
The number of German pensioners working “mini-jobs” to supplement their income has risen by 60 percent since 2000, it was revealed on Tuesday. The figures prompted warnings of an old-age poverty epidemic.

In 2000, 280,000 pensioners had the €400-a-month jobs, which are exempt from taxes and national insurance contributions. This figure has risen to around 761,000, the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper said on Tuesday.

And of these, 120,000 were 75 and older, newspaper said. The information was secured from the government by the far-left Linke parliament party.

A further 154,000 people of pensionable age are working in more lucrative positions – twice as many as since then end of 1999 – and 80,000 of these are working full time. These figures, which the Süddeutsche Zeitung got from the national labour agency, do not include freelancers.

Job market expert Holger Schäfer of the Cologne Institute for Economic research (IW) said many older people “chose to work because it keeps them active.”

Because most people working in old age are highly-qualified “this shows that financial necessity is, in many cases, not the driving motive for staying in employment,” Schäfer added.

But others, like chairwoman of large lobbying group for socially disadvantaged groups VdK Ulrike Mascher, see the situation as much more alarming, and are warning of a wave of old-age poverty sweeping over the country.

Mascher told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that when it came to employed over-75s “they are rarely university professors who fancy keeping up their job, rather pensioners who are delivering papers, stacking supermarket shelves and doing other unattractive jobs to subsidise their measly pension.”

Government figures seem to support Mascher's concerns, as an average monthly pension payment is dropping. In 2000, an average person who took retirement after paying into the system for 35 years would have been set to receive €1,021 a month. By 2011, this had sunk to €953.

Those who had earned a reduced income, such as those who had worked part-time, would be looking at even less.

And though the Labour Ministry has said that sinking pension payments were “not synonymous with retracting financial situation” of current retirees, and that other forms of income are becoming more accessible for pensioners - like renting out property, or separate savings accounts – other politicians disagree.

“We are hurtling into mass old age poverty,” said Matthias Birkwald, pension policy spokesman of the Linke. “Falling pensions have to be stopped.”

The Local/jcw

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