During yesterday’s session, the government issued a positive opinion on the presidential draft of the act lowering pension age. No additional work experience criterion, which may have mitigated the adverse effects of this decision, was added. The government only recommended that the new pension age should come into force in October 2017 at the earliest.
Delaying the coming of those changes into force is a result of existing budget restrictions. The year 2017 will be particularly tough for Polish public finances – 500+ benefits will have to be paid throughout the whole year and the budget will not get as much money from extraordinary sources as it does today. The government surely hopes that a positive economic climate continues and that efforts to increase tax collection rates come to fruition. However, no one can be sure that this will indeed be the case.
Pension recipients themselves will feel the consequences of the decision even more than the budget. The current pension system is self-regulating – when the life expectancy of pensioners increases and the duration of contribution payment shortens, pensions will be lower – by over 40 percent for women and by 15 percent for men. For every subsequent class of new pensioners, benefits will be lower in relation to earlier wages – future pensions may amount to as little as 1/3 of the last wage.
Polish economy will also suffer the consequences of lower pension age. As prognosed by GUS, in 2020 the number of people in working age will be 1 mln lower than it would be if the lowering of pension age were stopped. Meanwhile, lower labour supply will increasingly strongly restrict the economic growth rate, meaning that Poland will find it harder to make up ground on Easter European countries. A GDP growth of 3 percent may turn out to be the peak of our abilities, rather than – like it used to – an absolute minimum.
Furthermore, one should not hope that lowering the pension age will free up more jobs for young people. Employment among older and younger employees is complementary and not substitutive – employees who are closing in on pension age generally do not work in positions that could be taken over by the young. Moreover, lower pension age means fewer employees and therefore less income to be distributed. Another effect of lower income is lower consumption and in turn restricted consumption demand translates to lower demand for employees. Hence, at the end of the day some of the jobs vacated by pensioners will not be taken over by younger employees, but rather simply disappear.
Łukasz Kozłowski, economic expert of Employers of Poland