German seniors lose buying power


Senior citizens in Germany have seen a fifth of their buying power disappear since 2000, with the elderly in the former East Germany losing the most, new data shows.

The data, released by the German government at the request of the parliamentary faction of the socialist Left party and published in the daily Thüringer Allgemeine, shows the buying power of seniors in eastern Germany dropping 22 percent since 2000, and 17 percent for those in western Germany.

Left party co-chair Bernd Riexinger criticized the government over the figures, and said the "downward spiral in pensions" must be stopped. He added that in eastern Germany, more than anywhere, there is an "avalanche" of old age poverty on the horizon.

The average pension payments, after deductions, in western Germany are €1,062 (up €17 since 2000), in eastern Germany the figure is €1,047 – a drop of €23 since 2000, the paper reported. Over the same period, the consumer price index rose about 20 percent.

More seniors in Germany are continuing to work into their old age. In 2000, 280,000 pensioners had €400-a-month jobs, which are exempt from taxes and national insurance contributions.

This figure has risen to about 761,000, the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported last month. Of those, 120,000 were 75 and older, the newspaper said.

Critics views those statistics with alarm, arguing that the seniors are not staying in the workforce because they want to, but because they can't live off their pensions.

The issue of pension reform has recently pitted Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen against younger members of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party (FDP).

Von der Leyen supports supplements to raise the current basic pension of €688 per month to €850. In a letter to her party's junior members, she said: "At stake is nothing less than the legitimacy of the pension system for the younger generation."

FDP leader Philipp Rösler told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper last month that the plan would "cost millions. We do not have the money for that in the pension fund."

Young members of the FDP and CDU are promoting more private pension savings for low income earners.

The government has proposed reducing pension contributions from 19.6 to 19 percent by the end of the year, but the proposal has stalled in the Bundesrat, or upper house of parliament, where members refused to take a stand on the issue, the daily Die Welt reported Saturday.

The Local/mbw