‘No’ to pensions change

The government yesterday underscored its intention to maintain the existing retirement age, dismissing a proposal by the Bank of Greece that Greeks should work longer in the face of the country’s worsening demographics and inadequate social security system. «On no account will there be an increase in the current retirement age, which is 65 for males and 60 for females,» Deputy Labor Minister Rovertos Spyropoulos told a local radio station. The comments came the day after Nicholas Garganas, Bank of Greece governor, suggested that the government raise the retirement age as a way of dealing with Greece’s demographic problem. Failure to deal with the issue could lead to an unsustainable tax burden on future generations, he warned. Garganas also called for changes to the social security system. The government last year unveiled a refinancing plan for the indebted system as the core of structural reforms but left the retirement age and retirement benefits untouched. Critics said the stopgap reforms would need to be supplemented by additional measures further down the road. The ministry will step up checks on specific pension funds in an effort to stamp out abuses such as applying for early retirement because of disabilities, Spyropoulos said. Defending the social security system, he said the existing structure is both «viable and robust, if current rules are observed.» The government’s opposition to raising the retirement age echoes a similar stand by trade unionists. Christos Polyzogopoulos, head of trade federation GSEE, yesterday reiterated his antagonism to Garganas’s suggestion, suggesting that employers who shirk their pension contributions were more of a problem.