Those who have been in the Bundestag for four years have a higher right to retirement benefits after their entire working life than many employees. This is just one of the many injustices in our pension system.
Unconditional basic income is a much discussed topic. Understandably, people long for social security, especially in times of crisis, also because the welfare state has been weakened by political decisions over the past two decades. In our rich country, we actually have to protect everyone and protect ‘unconditionally’ against poverty, but not spend hundreds of billions of euros every year on people who do not need the money.
For those dependent on a functioning welfare state, such as pensioners, unconditional basic income would in many cases even be a negative matter. A necessary, fundamental reform of the pension – everyone pays, everyone is protected from poverty in old age, the standard of living achieved is ensured – stands in the way of unconditional basic income, because it binds all tax money.
Other countries protect their citizens better
Every second statutory pension is currently less than 1000 euros net. This includes 2.4 million retirees who have paid for at least 40 years. These figures from the federal government’s answers to our parliamentary questions show that pensions no longer ensure the living standards of millions of people and that old-age poverty threatens to become one of the greatest social problems.
The federal government is celebrating the introduction of the basic pension. It hardly changes the grievances described. By way of comparison: in the Netherlands there is a basic pension that deserves its name. No one there has a pension of less than 1255 euros. In Germany, the statutory pension is lower for millions of people. According to the OECD, the pension level in Austria and Italy is more than 80 percent. In this country it has dropped below 50 percent and it should continue to fall. In the entire EU, the level is ten percent higher than in Germany. So there is another way.
We need a major pension reform and an end to the low-wage sector. Ten million people work for an hourly wage of less than twelve euros. This hourly wage is not sufficient to exceed the basic security at an older age on the statutory pension, even if you have worked full-time all your life. We not only have a pension problem, but above all a wage problem.
We still need a minimum wage of EUR 12 an hour in this parliamentary term. This is not only necessary to end exploitation. Every year the state spends ten billion euros on so-called “top-ups” because there is no minimum wage that people can live on without having to go to social services. These employees often receive basic security in old age, for which seven billion euros is spent annually in tax money. Low wages, small pensions, high public spending that is lacking elsewhere – a vicious circle that must be broken.
It’s a matter of funding
For a major pension reform, we need a financing revolution. The key question is: who pays? Why don’t I make a mandatory deposit, for example? Why doesn’t Ms. Merkel pay? Why do MPs, civil servants, freelancers and the self-employed not contribute? Why do top earners only contribute part of their salary?
Dietmar Bartsch is leader of the Left Group in the Bundestag (Source: image images)
Retirement is less a matter of generation, but more of a matter of financing. Not only employees must bear the statutory pension, but all people with an income. We propose that members of the Bundestag continue and pay the statutory pension. It is unacceptable that we are well looked after by an additional system. Without personal contributions, members of the Bundestag acquire a higher right after four years in parliament than many pensioners after a long working life. After four years in office, members of the federal government are entitled to a pension of approximately EUR 4,500.
The obligation to contribute to a pension for Bundestag members would be symbolic at first, but ultimately a key to major pension reform. Then everyone else must be involved, including civil servants and self-employed people. A pension fund in which everyone pays and everyone is insured would strengthen social cohesion. This would be a necessary signal against the growing confidence of citizens in the state pension and in the political system as a whole.