SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Predčasný dôchodok

NOT THE army, not the media, not Christians, gun owners or large corporations. If you’re looking for the most influential interest group shaping politics in Slovakia, look to an unlikely suspect – the country’s grannies and grandpas.

NOT THE army, not the media, not Christians, gun owners or large corporations. If you’re looking for the most influential interest group shaping politics in Slovakia, look to an unlikely suspect – the country’s grannies and grandpas.

Pensioners enjoy political clout for two simple reasons: they represent a fifth of the population and they show up for elections. That’s why most administrations tend to curry their favour by ‘Christmas pensions’ and other treats. And that’s why it came as a surprise that among the latest set of savings proposals that Iveta Radičová’s government introduced this week was a plan to ban people from receiving an early retirement pension (predčasný dôchodok) while working at the same time.

The idea makes sense – early retirement was introduced to help people approaching the official retirement age who could not find employment. But why pay those that do in fact have a job? However explaining that to the recipients of that benefit isn’t so simple.

The other part of proposed pension reform caused even more uproar. The coalition wants to ban public institutions from employing any retirees. That faces opposition from schools, where retired teachers often help out and make up perhaps as much as a tenth of the workforce.

Radičová later said that the measure only prohibits regular employment, and teachers and schools will remain free to close other types of work agreements. But critics rightly ask – as long as retirees remain being paid for their work, what’s the point of that plan? Just forcing them to sign a different work agreement will not save a cent.

Radičová has backtracked from announced austerity measures before. This package is unlikely to be an exception – especially given the pensioners’ ability to send politicians into early retirement.


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