Pension system nears breaking point

GSEE says social security will start to fail next year as recession and joblessness speed up deterioration By Roula Salourou

The ticking time bomb of the social security system will not explode in 2025, but 10 years earlier, or next year, according to a study by the Institute of Labor of the General Confederation of Greek Labor (INE/GSEE) which is to be presented in Thessaloniki on Thursday.

GSEE’s annual report on the Greek economy includes a chapter on the aging population and the sustainability of the social security system from 2013 to 2050. Its conclusions, which Kathimerini has seen, say that the prolonged recession and high unemployment have brought forward the pension system’s crumbling point by a decade and that in order to become viable the system requires additional resources of 950 million euros for 2016 alone.

The system’s extra requirements are expected to grow rapidly in the following years, soaring to 2.67 billion euros for 2020.

The authors of the study note that pension cuts and a hike in the retirement age would have allowed for the sustainability of the system until 2025 had it not been for the deep and protracted recession and high unemployment. As a result 2015 is seen as the year when the social security system could fall apart.

They add that new measures will be necessary due to reduced state funding (from 16.4 billion euros in 2012 to just 8.6 billion per year from 2015 to 2018), an explosive rise in the jobless rate, an increase in the number of new pensioners (from 40,000 in 2009 to 100,000 per year after 2010), salary reductions and the growth in undeclared and flexible labor.

Already the social security funds’ cash reserves have dwindled from 26 billion euros in 2009 to just 4.5 billion last year, while the demographic shift in Greece resulting from longer life expectancy and a reduction in the birthrate has contributed to a 15 percent increase in the pension burden on funds, the study notes.

The INE/GSEE economists also note that after the recent interventions to the pensions system, the average age of retirement has grown to 63 years (not including early retirement options), while pensions have been cut by about 32.5 percent.