Almost one million German pensioners still in workforce | News | DW | 01.09.2016
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Almost one million German pensioners still in workforce

According to Germany's Labor Ministry, 943,000 pensioners are still in minor employment. DW's Kate Brady spoke to working retirees in Bonn, western Germany, to find out if it's only money on the mind.

In a freshly-ironed shirt, and newly-polished shoes, two to three days a week Herr Neuer is just another one of Germany's 43.5 million employees, caught up in the rat race of the working week. But in his younger years he had envisaged a somewhat different start to the day by the age of 66.

"I thought I'd have made enough by 55 to retire," he told DW. But, as with hundreds of thousands of other Germans, life came with its obstacles: family, children, unemployment.

As a result, Neuer is among the growing number of German seniors who are still working beyond the national retirement age.

According to the latest figures from the German Labor Ministry, the number of retirees still holding down minor employment has increased by 22 percent since 2010 to 943,000. Ten years go this was less than 700,000.

Woman putting money in a piggy bank

Sixty-six-year-old museum worker Herr Neuer said that many people don't plan for their retirement when they're young

A particularly large increase has been reported among pensioners aged 75 and over. By the end of 2015, just under 176,000 seniors in this age group were working in a so-called "mini-job" - or part-time job paying 450 euros ($504) monthly. This is a sharp increase, amounting to more than twice as many as in 2005.

Poverty among the aged

Left party politician Matthias Birkwald said the increase in mini-jobbing pensioners shows that more and more retirees are supplementing their retirement benefits.

Responding to the figures from the Labor Ministry, Birkwald called for "flexible and socially secure early retirement for those who do not make it to retirement age" and a "pension that's poverty-proof and secures a standard of living."

Those affected are "not working for fun, but because the pension is not enough to live on," Birkwald said.

According to Germany's statutory pension insurance scheme, the "Deutsche Rentenversicherung Bund" (DRV), "retirees who earned the average wage during their career over 45 years currently receive a monthly pension of 1,342 euros, before taxes or deductions."

"Whoever made provisions for old-age during their working life should be well-prepared for retirement," DRV spokesman Jochen Müller told DW.

Prepare, but 'live your lives'

In hindsight, 66-year-old Herr Neuer said he could have perhaps prepared better financially for the future.

Earrings

Despite owning her own jewelry business, 69-year-old Frau Winkler said life could be hard without the extra income

"You don't always think about these things when you're young and then, suddenly, you're 65," he said. In a word of advice to younger generations, he urged young Germans to take their pension savings seriously.

"But I'd also say, 'live your lives.'"

Despite the financial strains, money isn't Neuer's only motive for continuing to work past retirement age. Working on the security team at a museum in Bonn is also important for his mental, as well as physical health, he said.

"Besides the financial aspect, I decided to carry on working to stay fit and active," Neuer said, adding that through daily contact with new people and exhibitions at the museum he's always learning something new.

Human contact

For 69-year-old Frau Winkler, a combination of financial security and mental well-being was also important in her decision to continue working beyond 65.

"Many women my age are grandmothers, but I don't have any children or grandchildren," she told DW. Her husband, with whom she opened her jewelry store, also passed away 10 years ago.

"I have many lovely customers," she said. "Without that human contact, I think you can quickly fall into at least a light depression."

Money, however, was also an issue. "My husband and I paid too little into our pension fund," Frau Winkler said, adding, however, that although she was responsible for paying into the pension fund, it would be "reassuring to see an increase in the pension level."

"God willing, I'll be working for many more years yet," she said.

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Ageing population

As Germany's population continues to age, labor market economist at the Institute for the German Economy (IW) Holgar Schäfer told DW that the number of retirees still holding down part-time work should be expected to increase in coming years.

"The age at which people are still feeling fit enough to work is also increasing at a quicker rate than the legal retirement age," Schäfer said.

The current retirement age of 65 years and seven months is due to increase to 67 in 2030 for citizens born since January 1, 1964.

Poverty among the aged

For Germany's Social Association (SoVD), however, the rise in number of retirees still in the workforce indicates an increase in poverty in old age.

To prevent a similar situation for Germany's future generations, SoVD spokesman Benedikt Dederichs told DW that several labor market policy decisions must be made in Berlin.

"This includes restrictions on precarious employment such as mini jobs, temporary work and fixed-term contracts," Dederichs said.

"We already know that it's possible to prevent poverty in old age," he added, "Assuming that the political will is there."

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