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Europe struggling with pension issues
Old 01-09-2006, 08:20 AM   #1
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Europe struggling with pension issues

This thread branches off from the other pension thread, which addresses the burden U.S. companies face in funding pensions for Boomers.* It appears that the U.S. isn't the only country that has been dealing with the issue (I don't have a date for the article, but it appears to have been published in the last few years).* I've highlighted a few paragraphs that I found interesting.

Will Europeans Be Forced
To Retire at an Older Age?

By John W. Miller

Dow Jones Newswires
From The Wall Street Journal Online*

BRUSSELS -- Joel Crevecoeur can't wait to turn 60 years old. "That's the day I stop working," he says, as he lines up a pool shot and nails the eight ball. "I'll also get the pension I've been working for my whole life."

Like many Europeans, the 44-year-old financial analyst for Bank Degroof, a Brussels investment bank, yearns for, believes in and says he deserves a comfortable postcareer life. "Americans can work until they're 85," he says. "In Europe, retirement is a sacred right."

It also has become a public-policy headache. With the population aging fast, Europe's culture of retirement by 60 -- and often even 55 -- is a big economic liability.

Baby-boom retirement is bankrupting pension and health systems and curbing European competitiveness. Governments and economists recognize and are trying to solve the problem, but political obstacles and deep-seated cultural preferences stand in the way.

Right now there are four workers for every retiree in Europe. By 2050, if current trends continue, there will be two per retiree. In order to maintain the current level of pensions, public expenditure will need to rise by as much as 10 percentage points of gross domestic product, according to Kieran McMorrow, a European Commission economist and co-author of the book "The Economic and Financial Market Consequences of Global Aging."

Because of the increased spending and the loss of potentially productive working hours, Mr. McMorrow estimates average European Union GDP -- the total value of goods and services produced -- will be a mere 1.25% in the next few decades. But if everyone in the EU worked until 65, growth could be a full percentage point higher.

European citizens' embrace of the welfare state makes the issue more important there than in the U.S. Pensions make up an average of 21% of EU public spending, compared with only 4.8% for Social Security in the U.S. Politicians have been calling for overhauls for a decade, but the situation has acquired a sense of urgency only in recent years, with budget deficits widening as growth slows and the population ages.

Governments across Europe know pension and health-care changes are essential to their long-term economic future, but they fear vindictive voters. In Sunday's elections for the European Parliament, citizens punished governments for their stabs at changing the status quo. French and German administrations took a beating for tinkering with workweeks and retirement ages, respectively. That scenario haunts the plans of countries such as Italy, where government would like to raise the minimum retirement age to 60 from 57.

What drives Europeans to retire early? The easy answers are that pension systems are too generous and that rigid labor markets make finding a job hard. In Belgium, people who retire at age 60 can collect as much as 80% of their employment income. Many Belgians eagerly claim their pensions rather than keep working. Those who want to work find part-time jobs on the black market.

Another important, less-discussed part of the problem is cultural. Early retirement has become to French, Germans and Italians what leaving home for college at 18 is to Americans: not mandated by law, but something you are just supposed to do when you get to that age. In the U.S., economists say most 60-year-olds believe they still should be working; Europeans of the same age say they should be painting or gardening.

Business leaders in the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Germany dreamed up the concept of "retirement" in the late 1890s as a way of luring workers to their companies and weeding out the old and inefficient. Before then, a person worked until he died or amassed enough cash for comfort. Public retirement systems were first devised in the U.S. in the 1930s, with President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. In Europe, politicians wove the first social safety nets during the decade after World War II. France, Germany and Italy eagerly used their new prosperity to build more-comfortable societies. Although German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck proposed "old-age insurance" in the 1880s, it was offered only to people over 74, well above average life expectancy at the time.

In the 1970s, idealistic European politicians -- arguing that they were freeing up jobs for younger voters -- offered plans allowing workers to retire at 55, or even 52. In the 1980s, policy makers gave older workers more early-retirement benefits and automatic unemployment pay. Consequently, Europeans over 55 took themselves out of the job market in large numbers. The average retirement age in the EU fell to 59.8 in 2000 from 66.2 in 1950.

Belgium's conservative-led government has proposed raising the minimum retirement age to 65, but socialists and powerful trade unions have opposed the plan. Ginette Delplace, regional secretary of Socialist union FGTB, says, "By that age, you're worn out."

But some other countries are having moderate success changing this attitude. In March, Germany raised the bar for getting state pensions to 63 years old from 56. "We're still in a transition process," says Ewald Zimmerman, an economist with the German parliament's committee on pensions. Interviews with 50-year-old Germans suggest many still expect to retire at around 60, and the employment rate for the 55-to-64 set remains only 38%.

Says Otto Bjorklund, 63-year-old vice president for trade policy for Nokia Corp. of Finland: "Early retirement used to be the dream people had, but now they realize that you can't play golf every day."
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Re: Europe struggling with pension issues
Old 01-09-2006, 08:44 AM   #2
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Re: Europe struggling with pension issues

Jay,
Good post. The article brings to light some of the some issues we face in the US with SS, state and Fed. pensions and private sector pensions. I don't know how the pension system is going to continue to support the huge numbers of people that will retire on the public or corporate teat in an environment with ever tightening constraints on profits due to a global market place. Governments cannot continue to increase taxes to cover the gap because of the strong feelings of the people and corporations that pay the taxes. There are limits to what they can do before the people finally become outraged enough to make a difference and slow the upward taxing spiral.

An article in a local paper here recently focused on the incomes and pension programs for the various state, county and city employees. The next couple of days brought a lot of negative sentiment towards the "luxury" benefits as they were described by some that responded. I think the public outcry against these benefit programs, especially the ones that are not fully funded, will continue to increase and the respective governments, just like many businesses, will be forced to reduce or eliminate them in the future. The golden days of high pensions, free medical insurance and DC plans with high contributions is behind us. The rest of the world is just starting to "get it".
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Re: Europe struggling with pension issues
Old 01-09-2006, 09:14 AM   #3
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Re: Europe struggling with pension issues

Peter Drucker predicted this in 1998.
http://www.mastersforum.com/archives...ker_Precis.htm

Four Challenges to Received Wisdom
"My topic is not really the future according to me," Peter Drucker began. "The probability of any prediction coming true is no better than 2%."

In my view, he said, the future has already happened. The task we must take up is to look at all that has already happened, but has yet to have an impact.

1. Demographic Upheavals
Set aside technology and wars and politics and economics and business for a moment. The greatest revolution taking place today is in the demographic makeup of the nations of the world.

The danger turns out to be no overpopulation, which environmentalists have been warning us about, but underpopulation. There will simply not be enough young people in the next century to support all the old people.

The shrinkage of the pool of young people is not only very rapid, it is irreversible.

Otto Von Bismarck started this trend in motion in 1888 when he created the first social security plan, with a retirement age of 65. Only, he didn't plan on a lot of Germans reaching that age. Today, life expectancy is in the 70s and 80s in developed countries. The birth rates are not keeping up with the accumulation of healthy old people.

The unavoidable implication of this shift is that future politics will be decided by a group of old people who produce nothing and use up much of their societies' resources.

For one thing, Drucker said, we will have to raise retirement age, to 75 or even higher. For another, the nature of retirement will change. Expect people in the next century to phase in and out of retirement. And why not? They will be in better shape than 75 year olds of this era, and will have great job mobility from having worked in many positions and places in their careers.
...cut...
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Re: Europe struggling with pension issues
Old 01-09-2006, 09:45 AM   #4
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Re: Europe struggling with pension issues

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eagle43
The unavoidable implication of this shift is that future politics will be decided by a group of old people who produce nothing and use up much of their societies' resources.
Although I'd like to hear more from others regarding the pension struggle in Europe, the following question struck me when reading the foregoing statement. Is the implication that Boomers, who are in positions of political power now, will refrain from cutting their own benefits? Will it be up to Generation X and Y to make the hard choices, such as raising the retirement age for receiving Social Security, Medicare, etc... to take into account the fact that Boomers are living longer lives?
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Re: Europe struggling with pension issues
Old 01-09-2006, 09:59 AM   #5
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Re: Europe struggling with pension issues

There are some issues that should be addressed if we increase the retirement age. One is the age discrimation issue. If an older person loses their job, it is much harder for that person to find a replacement job and the job they do find may not be near as good. I know I posted some statistics on this some time ago, but I am too lazy (I am vacationing) to search for it.

I also suspect that although there are many over 65 who are perfectly healthy, there are a number who age with many health problems. These health problems can interfer with the ability to work. Yet social security disability has strict rules which provide if you can do any kind of light work, you are not disabled. So those with active jobs might have to change careers. Not easy, given the age discrimation issue.

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Re: Europe struggling with pension issues
Old 01-09-2006, 11:43 AM   #6
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Re: Europe struggling with pension issues

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martha
There are some issues that should be addressed if we increase the retirement age.* One is the age discrimation issue.* If an older person loses their job, it is much harder for that person to find a replacement job and the job they do find may not be near as good.* I know I posted some statistics on this some time ago, but I am too lazy (I am vacationing) to search for it.

I also suspect that although there are many over 65 who are perfectly healthy, there are a number who age with many health problems.* * These health problems can interfer with the ability to work.* Yet social security disability has strict rules which provide if you can do any kind of light work, you are not disabled.* So those with active jobs might have to change careers.* Not easy, given the age discrimation issue.*

The other issue is the willingness for businesses to create jobs that favor these folks. Many would be OK working fewer hours a week for a decent paycheck and some reducted benefits. Not too many businesses are willing to do that yet. Where are all these older Baby Boomers going to work? Who is going to hire them? Micky D only has so many jobs you know and Wally World only needs so many too.
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Re: Europe struggling with pension issues
Old 01-09-2006, 12:13 PM   #7
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Re: Europe struggling with pension issues

Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveR
The other issue is the willingness for businesses to create jobs that favor these folks.* Many would be OK working fewer hours a week for a decent paycheck and some reducted benefits.* Not too many businesses are willing to do that yet.* Where are all these older Baby Boomers going to work?* Who is going to hire them?* Micky D only has so many jobs you know and Wally World only needs so many too.
Umm...what about employing each other? Boomers running businesses and hiring other Boomers that have critical experience.
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Re: Europe struggling with pension issues
Old 01-09-2006, 12:19 PM   #8
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Re: Europe struggling with pension issues

Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveR
Jay,
Good post.* The article brings to light some of the some issues we face in the US with SS, state and Fed. pensions and private sector pensions.* I don't know how the pension system is going to continue to support the huge numbers of people that will retire on the public or corporate teat in an environment with ever tightening constraints on profits due to a global market place.* Governments cannot continue to increase taxes to cover the gap because of the strong feelings of the people and corporations that pay the taxes.* There are limits to what they can do before the people finally become outraged enough to make a difference and slow the upward taxing spiral.
First of all, take what the media feeds you with a grain of salt. *Alot of it is purely propaganda with an agenda behind it, and that is to keep as much money out of the wage-slave hands as possible so more money can trickle up to the top.

Take a good hard look at the money earned by the top honchos of these companies going broke thru global competition and realize that global competition is the new buzzword meant to deflect the attention away from what is really going on, namely huge salaries and looting of the big corps. And the looting we hear about is only the tip, a tiny tip.

To think they are going broke is ridiculous since they set up in the third world countries under other names, and they compete against themselves to create this illusion of going broke, thus taking away from the US wage-slave. *

Take the looting at Tyco, Kenny boy, MCI, and the rest of the crowd, multiply by several thousand, and voila, you've got a safe and secure pension system for many who have been robbed of their pensions. Elite scum go from one company to another and loot the company behind the scenes, very rarely are they caught.

The last thing the "elites" want you to know is what is really going on. *So they pitch battles between *wage slave with defined benefit plans against those who have no such plans and then everyone buys the mantra "defined benefit plans can no longer be afforded". *They get all the wage slaves to sing this mantra,and believe this mantra as the "boys" laugh all the way to the bank.

The real mantra should be " you all are a bunch of crooks and we dont believe one word of what you are saying"

Companies are mismanaged by narcissists and psychopaths whose overcompensation is dwarfed by what they are stealing . *And what they are stealing, is actually the tip of the iceberg, larceny is big time, just that the government, controlled by the "boys" is not able to catch all the crooks, only those who didnt pay their dues. *Bush is letting Kenny boy be the scapegoat, as long as this dummy front man and daddy get theirs.

So stop buying into this psychology that SS is going broke, companies cannot afford decent pension plans and start concentrating on the enormous amount of wealth being stolen by the "boys" *

Only when this issue of corporate thievery is thoroughly visited will we realize that there is plenty of money out there to finance pensions along with health care benefits for all. Stop thinking what they want you to think, and start multiplying by the thousands, the amount of big companies being looted and bankrupted. Its a scam, dont buy it.

Ya gotta think outta da box when ya come from brooklyn.

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Re: Europe struggling with pension issues
Old 01-09-2006, 12:45 PM   #9
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Re: Europe struggling with pension issues

Quote:
Originally Posted by jug
Jug,
Mohel extraordinaire, no tips please
Reminds me of the interview with a mohel on NPR I heard a few years back. The interviewer said there were a lot of jokes about being a mohel, and asked the mohel being interviewed to share a couple of his favorites. This one is a classic:

Seems a gentleman is standing at a urinal in a public restroom when he turns to the guy next to him and says, "You're from Cleveland, aren't you?"

Surprised, the guy answers, "Why, yes I am."

The gentleman continues, "And you're a member of Rabbi Goldman's congregation."

Puzzled, the guy replies, "Yes, I am. Do we know each other? I don't recall ever meeting you."

The gentlemen says, "No, we've never met. But I know Rabbi Goldman's mohel cuts on the bias and you're peeing on my foot."


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Re: Europe struggling with pension issues
Old 01-09-2006, 01:30 PM   #10
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Re: Europe struggling with pension issues

Quote:
But I know Rabbi Goldman's mohel cuts on the bias and you're peeing on my foot."
Watching too much Emeril Lagassi... :P
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Re: Europe struggling with pension issues
Old 01-09-2006, 08:28 PM   #11
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Re: Europe struggling with pension issues

Quote:
Originally Posted by jug
First of all, take what the media feeds you with a grain of salt. Alot of it is purely propaganda with an agenda behind it, and that is to keep as much money out of the wage-slave hands as possible so more money can trickle up to the top.

Take a good hard look at the money earned by the top honchos of these companies going broke thru global competition and realize that global competition is the new buzzword meant to deflect the attention away from what is really going on, namely huge salaries and looting of the big corps. And the looting we hear about is only the tip, a tiny tip.

To think they are going broke is ridiculous since they set up in the third world countries under other names, and they compete against themselves to create this illusion of going broke, thus taking away from the US wage-slave.

Take the looting at Tyco, Kenny boy, MCI, and the rest of the crowd, multiply by several thousand, and voila, you've got a safe and secure pension system for many who have been robbed of their pensions. Elite scum go from one company to another and loot the company behind the scenes, very rarely are they caught.

The last thing the "elites" want you to know is what is really going on. So they pitch battles between wage slave with defined benefit plans against those who have no such plans and then everyone buys the mantra "defined benefit plans can no longer be afforded". They get all the wage slaves to sing this mantra,and believe this mantra as the "boys" laugh all the way to the bank.

The real mantra should be " you all are a bunch of crooks and we dont believe one word of what you are saying"

Companies are mismanaged by narcissists and psychopaths whose overcompensation is dwarfed by what they are stealing . And what they are stealing, is actually the tip of the iceberg, larceny is big time, just that the government, controlled by the "boys" is not able to catch all the crooks, only those who didnt pay their dues. Bush is letting Kenny boy be the scapegoat, as long as this dummy front man and daddy get theirs.

So stop buying into this psychology that SS is going broke, companies cannot afford decent pension plans and start concentrating on the enormous amount of wealth being stolen by the "boys"

Only when this issue of corporate thievery is thoroughly visited will we realize that there is plenty of money out there to finance pensions along with health care benefits for all. Stop thinking what they want you to think, and start multiplying by the thousands, the amount of big companies being looted and bankrupted. Its a scam, dont buy it.

Ya gotta think outta da box when ya come from brooklyn.

Jug,
Mohel extraordinaire, no tips please
Coulden't have said it better. Key word THIEF!
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Re: Europe struggling with pension issues
Old 01-10-2006, 10:17 AM   #12
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Re: Europe struggling with pension issues

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay_Gatsby
Although I'd like to hear more from others regarding the pension struggle in Europe...
Here are a few short excerpts from a lengthy Mark Steyn article that ran on the Wall Street Journal site last week. It's a bit apocalyptic but, to my mind, dead on target, and addresses the broader scope of problems immediately affecting Europe:

It's the Demography, Stupid

BY MARK STEYN
Wednesday, January 4, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

Most people reading this have strong stomachs, so let me lay it out as baldly as I can: Much of what we loosely call the Western world will not survive this century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most Western European countries. There'll probably still be a geographical area on the map marked as Italy or the Netherlands--probably--just as in Istanbul there's still a building called St. Sophia's Cathedral. But it's not a cathedral; it's merely a designation for a piece of real estate. Likewise, Italy and the Netherlands will merely be designations for real estate. The challenge for those who reckon Western civilization is on balance better than the alternatives is to figure out a way to save at least some parts of the West...

Scroll way down to the bottom of the Hot One Hundred top breeders and you'll eventually find the United States, hovering just at replacement rate with 2.07 births per woman. Ireland is 1.87, New Zealand 1.79, Australia 1.76. But Canada's fertility rate is down to 1.5, well below replacement rate; Germany and Austria are at 1.3, the brink of the death spiral; Russia and Italy are at 1.2; Spain 1.1, about half replacement rate. That's to say, Spain's population is halving every generation. By 2050, Italy's population will have fallen by 22%, Bulgaria's by 36%, Estonia's by 52%. In America, demographic trends suggest that the blue states ought to apply for honorary membership of the EU: In the 2004 election, John Kerry won the 16 with the lowest birthrates; George W. Bush took 25 of the 26 states with the highest. By 2050, there will be 100 million fewer Europeans, 100 million more Americans--and mostly red-state Americans.

As fertility shrivels, societies get older--and Japan and much of Europe are set to get older than any functioning societies have ever been. And we know what comes after old age. These countries are going out of business--unless they can find the will to change their ways. Is that likely? I don't think so. If you look at European election results--most recently in Germany--it's hard not to conclude that, while voters are unhappy with their political establishments, they're unhappy mainly because they resent being asked to reconsider their government benefits and, no matter how unaffordable they may be a generation down the road, they have no intention of seriously reconsidering them. The Scottish executive recently backed down from a proposal to raise the retirement age of Scottish public workers. It's presently 60, which is nice but unaffordable. But the reaction of the average Scots worker is that that's somebody else's problem. The average German worker now puts in 22% fewer hours per year than his American counterpart, and no politician who wishes to remain electorally viable will propose closing the gap in any meaningful way...

http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110007760
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Re: Europe struggling with pension issues
Old 01-10-2006, 10:32 AM   #13
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Re: Europe struggling with pension issues

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Originally Posted by jondoh
they're unhappy mainly because they resent being asked to reconsider their government benefits and, no matter how unaffordable they may be a generation down the road, they have no intention of seriously reconsidering them.
This is the heart of the problem.* Pension systems (and the U.S. Social Security system) must take into account the fact that people are living longer than they were when such systems were created (or most recently revised/revisited).* Extending the eligibility age is somewhat akin to "moving the finish line", but when one's stamina to finish the race has increased, how is it unfair to move the finish line proportionately? Think of it in terms of taking into account lifespan "inflation".
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