Active retirement – a necessary and urgent reform. The case for Spain

retirement We live now more and in better conditions. In the last 20 years, the life expectancy of Spanish men has increased 5.6 years, that is, up to 80.1 years. And women are adding 4 years, up to 85.6 years. Longevity is increasing, particularly in developed countries, and it is estimated that it will reach 100 years by 2060.

Today we live more and better thanks to the advances that provide us with a higher quality of life. This is reflected in better health conditions, a universal education, better and more complete nutrition, significant progress in medicine and technological developments. All of them are factors that translate into more comfortable and longer lives, but along with all of this come the question, active retirement?, under what conditions?, in a very simple manner: reconciling the perception of retirement income with the practice of paid work.

As we live longer, the trend in developed countries – including Spain – is to extend the working life, postponing the date on which the state becomes liable to pay the pensioner. And this is legislated, more for reasons of structural deficiencies on the public pension systems – insufficient revenues to match the retirement dues of longer living pensioners – than for whatever governmental special interest in encouraging the population to continue contributing with its work to the creation of value and social good.

In the Spanish case, favouring the continuity of a paid job with the simultaneous perception of retirement incomes, offers a mediocre solution to the problem: it limits to €9,906/year the receipt of paid work compatible with the pension. A silly limit that falls short to mitigate the poverty risk that pensioners face. Pensions that barely grow to compensate inflation, meanwhile the government tax voraciousness severely squeezes year by year, the tiny pockets of the almost 8.6 million Spanish retirees.

Likewise, a fair reconciliation between the perception of intellectual property rights and the retirement allowance deserves another call for attention. Creative groups such as writers, musicians and inventors in general, are unfairly forced to choose between receiving their intellectual property rights or their pension, thus constrained to sacrifice one or the other, which is an unacceptable interference of the public authorities in determining the incomes of individuals and their willingness to maintain or improve their present and future well-being with their own efforts. An endeavour that in our democratic societies is configured as an inalienable right to decent paid jobs.

To a greater extent, the perception of capital incomes (e.g. interest on savings, dividends from shares, capital gains) that are compatible with any other type of income, whether from active labour or from the pension caused, is a further indication of the inconsistent treatment that Spanish labour laws give to intellectual property rights.

By the sweat of your brow you will work… today in the context of our advanced societies, more than a penalty should precisely be a blessing, the one that offers the luck of earning a living. It is rather a matter of enjoying the opportunity to work, assisting the individual in enhancing her own benefit that derives in that of the society itself.

Making working and pension pay compatibles should be allowed without restriction upon fulfilment the number of years and social security contribution dues that entitle the individual to claim her pension income. This proposal entails a radical position to what the current Spanish legislation provides with the government paternalistic approach to permanently condition, up to the smallest detail, the freedoms of the Spanish citizens. An unbearable declaration of principles on the part of our rulers: to permanently erode the economic citizenship foundation that we have addressed in previous articles. Here the idea that a dead pensioner is worthy more than an active one that is enjoying her life according to her intended, peaceful and free will, appears to be a sinister joke when talking about the freedom of work.

Our proposition therefore, is to fully recognize the coexistence of pension benefits and paid work as the citizen’s inalienable right to freely decide about if she wants to have a job meanwhile keeping her pensioner condition. Of course, a job subject to taxation and social security contributions to discourage the temptation of undeclared work.

In summary and in Circular Economy terms, a comprehensive active retirement that would extend the economically active cycle and improve the living conditions of a sizable number of the 3.1 million of retirees within the 60 to 74 years group. A group that accumulates valuable experiences and knowledge that the society, and particularly the youth, should still appreciate for their aggregated value accumulated throughout the lengthy working lives of our seniors.

CreativeCommons-logoActive retirement – a necessary and urgent reform. The case for Spain, by Miguel Sánchez de Pedro is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International.


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