Poles seek equal retirement age for men, women

Ombudsman Jan Kochanowski has sued the Constitutional Tribunal over regulations governing the retirement age of women and men. Currently, retirement age in Poland for men is 65 and for woman 60.

In the ombudsman’s opinion, it should be 65 for both sexes. Kochanowski thinks that different retirement ages are unjust and discriminatory, because women’s shorter work lives mean lower government pensions.
“A woman retiring at the age of 60 will be given a payment of 66 percent of a man’s pension. If she would work until age 65, the percentage would be 88.7,” Kochanowski said at a press conference. In addition to this, Kochanowski said, an earlier retirement age for women increases their risk of being fired after they qualify for pensions.

The real drama will start in 2009 when the pension reform act of 1999 takes full effect. Savings will be taken into consideration, and women may be penalized with lower pensions. In addition, Polish women on average have five times lower salaries than men. If women cannot earn more, perhaps they can work longer.

Currently women stop working earlier because it has very little effect on their pensions. Ombudsman Kochanowski believes that the age of retirement should be flexible, so that women will not be forced to work until age 65 if they do not want to.
The ombudsman says that the equalization of retirement age is a European trend.

The equal retirement age is mandatory in Denmark (65 years), Germany (65), Spain (65), Ireland (65), Holland (65) and France (60).

A very interesting rule was introduced in the Czech Republic: The more children reared by a woman, the lower the retirement age. Jolanta Fedk, minister of labor and social policy, also approves of equal retirement ages, but she says that Poland is not prepared for such a change and should wait for the Constitutional Tribunal verdict.

Fedk also is considering a so-called marriage pension where the pension would be inherited by the surviving spouse when the other spouse died.

According to a survey by the newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, 56 percent of those polled said they want no retirement changes, and 30 percent said they want to equalize the retirement age of men and women.

In Kochanowski’s opinion, equalizing the retirement age is not all that should be done. “Raising the retirement age is needed” for both sexes, he added. Retirement and pensions will become a more urgent issue in coming years. In 30 years, up to 45 percent of Poles will be over 50 years old. Currrently, 29 percent of Polish people are 50 and over. In 2060 it is estimated that each working person will be supporting three nonworking persons.

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