‘So many lies are being spread to frighten people'

18 July 2009

‘So many lies are being spread to frighten people'

‘It's almost unbelievable how much nonsense is being put about by those who support the idea of making us work till we're 67,' says SP leader Agnes Kant. Below, Kant vigorously counters the arguments in favour of raising the pension age.

Interview with SP leader Agnes Kant on proposals to raise the pension age

Raising the pension age to 67 is necessary to keep the state pension affordable.

Agnes KantSupporters of raising the age at which you can claim your pension do indeed raise the spectre of an unaffordable system. It's true that an ever-increasing demand will be made on the state pension fund, but this growing group of over-65s will also mean that income from taxes paid by pensioners will also rise strongly. These tax revenues will be sufficient to cover the costs of the growing number of pensions, as has been shown by a number of studies, including one from the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB)

If we don't raise the pension age, we'll soon be faced with a labour shortage

Another woppa. As things stand two out of three people between the ages of 60 and 65 don't work. For 64-year-olds, the proportion in work is just 13%, just over one in eight. The great majority have been paid off or are no longer able to work through some form of disability. But in addition to this, there are very many people between the ages of 50 and 60 who aren't in work but would certainly like to be. Of course in time there will be a labour shortage because ever more people are on pension. But that will mean pressure on employers to invest in hanging on to these older workers, who are currently sidelined en masse and no longer considered for positions.

Currently, two-thirds of people between the ages of 60 and 65 don't work.

Besides that, we shouldn't be working more or for longer, but above all we need to direct our efforts towards innovation. This would mean that employers would invest in raising labour productivity. Since 1970, through mechanisation and innovation, productivity has risen almost sevenfold. In recent years, also, productivity has risen. It's obvious that this process will continue.

Raising the pension age will bring a lot of money in.

As I said earlier, a large majority of older potential workers have either been laid off or are unfit for work. Raising the pension age to 67 will lead principally to an increased demand for various welfare payments, such as disability and attendance allowances. The cost of these payments is also covered by people in work. So it's probable that all that will happen is that the money will come from one pot instead of another, and that in concrete terms nothing will be gained. All that will be achieved is an increase in discontent, inconvenience, insecurity and a lot of people applying for support who have no real chance of receiving it. That's why it's also so important that we try to ensure that people who can't now find work succeed in doing so. That is what will produce the money.

If we don't act now the next generation will be saddled with debt.

Supporters assert that raising the pension age is a way of saving money. I would say on the contrary that it will probably produce no money at all. On the other hand, I agree that we should be very careful with the public purse. And that can be achieved in a number of ways. For example, cancelling the order for the JSF, the Joint Strike Fighter. Or by asking the rich for a fair contribution to the financing of the cost of health care by making premiums fully income-related. Or by limiting mortgage relief for sky-high mortgages for villas. Mortgage relief was never meant for such things, but for ordinary people with ordinary houses. And for them the SP would guarantee mortgage relief.

If you put the different policies side by side you can see that the government wants people to carry on working after their 65th birthday so that mortgages on villas can continue to be subsidised. I find this a painful thought.

People have a higher life expectancy than in the past, so working for longer is normal.

This is such a bizarre line of reasoning. It's a huge good that from our 65th birthday we can enjoy our old age, and one for which we have fought hard. The fact that progress means that more people can enjoy their old age is surely no reason to undo what we've achieved?

Raising the pension age will increase class inequality. Not only do people who had only elementary education live on average five years less, but they suffer ill-health fifteen years earlier than those with a higher level of education. The number of people who retire in good health will be reduced if the pension age is raised to 67.

In our neighbouring countries working to the age of 67 has already been introduced.

That's a great pity for the people who work there, but no reason to copy them.

People stay in education for longer, and so pay less into the pension fund. That's unfair.

Raising the pension age will affect everyone, and not only people who stay in education for longer. This would affect people with a lower level of education and a low income in two ways. They start working early, but will never earn enough for a nest-egg which would enable them to retire early, in contrast to people with a high level of education and earnings, who, just as is already the case, by saving up, can stop work at an earlier age. What you would therefore be doing is forcing people to continue working who already have a life expectancy five years lower than the better educated.

Raising the pension age won't apply to people with demanding jobs.

For a start that remains open to question. But some supporters have, it's true, noted that it would be physically impossible for a building worker to trudge about carrying hods of bricks up to his 67th birthday. Okay. But building work is not the only demanding work to be found in the Netherlands. I can think of a few groups of people who have had enough by their 65th. People who have worked for years in health care, or teachers who have stood for thirty years or more in front of a class and who are mentally drained. But such people, according to this government, don't come under the category of those with 'demanding jobs'.

Politicians who try to sell this to the public in this way attempt in the main to make everything sound very nice and logical, but haven't given a moment's thought to what really constitutes demanding work.

The SP won't let anyone work after their 65th birthday, even if they want to.

Nonsense. Whoever wants to, and can, should be able to carry on working. And a priority must be to get rid of the rules which currently make that difficult. But all of this must genuinely be a free and individual choice, with no improper pressure on people who don't want to carry on working after they're 65, or who aren't really capable of doing so. Furthermore, these people must have the same rights and duties as other workers, in order to prevent their exclusion from the labour market.

The other major parties, the governing Christian Democrats and Labour, and the right-wing liberals of the opposition VVD, have said that the pension age won't be raised.

The biggest lies we've heard in this whole story relate to the huge about-turn that these parties have made. Seldom have the voters been deceived on such an immense scale. At the beginning of 2009 Labour wrote to people who asked a question about the old age pension, "The PvdA (i.e. Labour Party) does not want to raise the pensionable age to 67, but to keep it at 65. In the PvdA's view, the attention that the government has given to this question has been a waste of energy.

The simple reality is that the crisis is being misused to force through a deterioration in social provision. People are being made afraid and misled with false pretexts. Just as they were in the referendum on the European Constitution.

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