Further measures are needed if EU Member States are to maintain the income of men and women for the duration of retirement and prevent old-age poverty, an EU report on pensions adequacy said Monday.
The 2018 Pensions Adequacy Report, published by the European Commission, finds that while Member States are paying more and more attention to sustainable, adequate pensions in their reforms, further measures will be needed in the future.
“Adequate pensions are essential in preventing poverty and social exclusion among older people in Europe, especially women,” said Social Affairs Commissioner Marianne Thyssen: “And we need to make that sure that people in non-standard work or self-employment are not left out. Our priority must to be to pursue ongoing reforms that encourage adequate pensions for everyone.”
Today, there are 1.9 million fewer older Europeans from EU member states population at risk of poverty or social exclusion than a decade ago, while the number of older workers in employment has increased by 4.1 million in the last three years alone.
Despite these improvements in the situation of Europe’s pensioners, however, the report says there is no room for complacency. According to the report, some 17.3 million or 18.2% of older people (aged 65 and over) in the EU remain at risk of poverty or social exclusion.
This amount has remained nearly unchanged since 2013. In addition, significant differences between countries and population groups remain. For instance, women’s pensions are still 37% lower than men’s due to lower salaries and shorter working lives linked to caring responsibilities. Similarly, people in non-standard or self-employment often face less favourable conditions for accessing and accruing pension rights than those in standard employment. The risk of poverty and social exclusion in old age also increases with age. More than half of all older people at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU are aged 75 or over. This is due to the fact that while needs increase with age, the value of pensions decreases during retirement.
The report acknowledges that Member States have put measures to safeguard adequacy of pensions more prominently at the heart of their policy efforts, in particular for low-income pensions, but it says more needs to be done.
To ensure the adequacy and sustainability of current and future pensions, pension systems need to promote longer working lives, in accordance with continuously increasing life expectancy. This can be done by encouraging life-long learning, providing a safe and healthy work environment, adjusting pensionable ages, rewarding later retirement, and discouraging early exit. Flexible working options, including the possibility to combine pension with income from work, and tax incentives promoting later retirement are becoming increasingly widespread and will continue to be important.
Member States should also take further steps to close the gender gap in pensions, by putting in place equal opportunity policies targeted at women and men of working age, for instance, promoting the work-life balance and equal distribution of caring responsibilities, addressing labour market participation, work intensity and career breaks. In particular, pension policies should adequately protect care-related breaks. In line with the European Pillar of Social Rights, the Commission aims at supporting Member States in these efforts, for instance with its proposal to create a better balance between private life and professional career for working parents and carers.
Finally, the Commission says it is also important to continue to extend pension coverage to people in non-standard or self-employment, and to promote supplementary pension saving. In this vein, and also under the banner of the Pillar of Social Rights, the Commission has recently put forward a proposal for a Recommendation on access to social protection.