Not all Germans want to sit back once they reach retirement ageImage: dpa
Germans Willing to Work Past Retirement
Hardy Graupner (nda)
August 3, 2005
Only a minority of elderly people in Germany are satisfied with saying goodbye to their working environment at the age of 60, says a study presented on Monday by the German minister for family affairs, Renate Schmidt.
Women in Germany now reach the ripe old age of 80 average and men 78 years. With fewer and fewer babies being born, the German society’s ageing process is expected to accelerate even further in the next few decades.
An eight-year study by the German Center for Old-Age Issues commissioned by the family ministry shows that elderly people will consequently play an even bigger role in both the family and working life.
Back in 1996, when the last such study was conducted, about 50 percent of Germans could not imagine continuing to work beyond the age of 60. Now only a third of the population is of this opinion.
The majority of elderly people are in good health and want to contribute to social wealth for much longer. Given the current era of high unemployment, this is sometimes being perceived by many as a threat, said Social Democrat family minister Renate Schmidt in Berlin on Wednesday.
"This demographic development is still being viewed here as a menace," she said. "I’m not denying that it’s a great challenge for society to cope with the consequences, but first and foremost it entails a lot of opportunities as we deal with people with valuable experience and expertise."
Employers need to change ageist attitudes
Schmidt said employers would have to change their current reservations towards employing elderly people in their 50s and 60s, as Germany’s ageing society could not afford to do without them. She spoke of the government’s current efforts to lay on special programs with a view to making it easier for elderly mean and women to find employment again.
Schmidt acknowledged that the way the demographic pyramid was expected to change over the next decades would make it increasingly impossible for the statutory pension system to be playing the same role it was still having for present-day pensioners.
“We surely have to tell people time and again that the statutory pension system cannot shoulder the whole burden of securing old-age living standards any more," she said.
"People need to become more aware of the fact that additional private savings schemes are required to enable them to live without financial worries," Schmidt added.
"And this will be particularly important for the younger generation now, who might still hear from their grandfathers and grandmothers that they are able to live well on their statutory pensions alone. Private pension insurance will play a pivotal role in avoiding an increase in old-age poverty in Germany.”
Schmidt praises caring elderly
The family minister praised the pensioners’ share in looking after the young generation, while their parents are at work. Family ties, she said, were still very close in Germany despite fact that the concept of living together under one roof was an exception rather than the rule.
She said that pensioners were also playing a huge role in supporting children financially with a third of all elderly people polled in the study having shelled out no fewer than 33 billion euros ($40.6 billion) between 1996 and 2002 alone.