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Social Insurance and pensions

Beyond ‘Normal’
Raising the Retirement Age Is the Wrong Approach for Social Security
EPI BRIEFING PAPER Economic Policy Institute January 26, 2011  #287

Social Security currently runs a healthy surplus, but a number of factors lead the program’s trustees to anticipate a modest shortfall over the next 75 years. The conventional wisdom is that the projected gap is driven largely by rising life expectancy, and that the key to restoring solvency is raising the normal retirement age, the age when participants are eligible for full retirement benefits. After all, if life has given us a bounty of extra years, shouldn’t our work ethic incline us to devote a little time to working longer?

However, gains in life expectancy represent only a small part of the fiscal challenge facing Social Security. The increase in the normal retirement age from 65 to 67, currently underway, already offsets gains in life expectancy for workers born before 1960, and longevity gains for younger generations account for only a fifth of the projected Social Security shortfall.

The bigger problems are weak wage growth and rising earnings inequality, which account for more than half the projected shortfall that has emerged since the system was last restored to long-term balance in 1983. Earnings inequality has eroded Social Security’s taxable earnings because earnings above a cap are exempt from Social Security taxes. Likewise, slower wage growth increases the costs as a share of taxable earnings. Rising health care costs, which create a growing wedge between compensation and taxable wages, a falling birth rate, and higher disability take-up are also contributing to the projected shortfall.

Read the report:
http://www.epi.org/publications/entry/6684/

European Commission - Your social security rights
Thinking of going to live or work in another EU country? Or just planning a holiday?
If so, be prepared to deal with another country’s social security system, which may be quite different from the one you are familiar with. You might find yourself asking questions such as:

  • who pays your hospital bill if you have an accident or get sick while on holiday abroad?
  • what about your pension rights if you have worked abroad?
  • which country would you get unemployment benefit from, if you needed it?
  • which country pays family benefits when your children are living abroad?
More>>

Progress and key challenges in the delivery of adequate and sustainable pensions in Europe
A Joint Report on Pensions by the Economic Policy Committee (Ageing Working Group), the Social Protection Committee (Indicators Sub-Group) and the Commission services (DG for Economic and Financial Affairs and DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities)
November 2010


Ensuring that public policies cater for sustainable, accessible and adequate retirement incomes now and in the future remains a priority for the EU. While Member States share similar fundamental challenges there are considerable differences in the timing of demographic ageing, the design of pension arrangements, the growth potential and in constraints on account of the fiscal situation and external competitiveness. The projected increase in public spending due to population ageing poses an important challenge to EU Member States. Policy action to improve the long term sustainability of public finances while ensuring adequacy of pensions is crucial.

Read the Report: http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/publications/occasional_paper/2010/pdf/ocp71_en.pdf

Summary for non - specialist

The Four Pillars - Reasearch on Social Security, Insurance and Retirement
by Geneva Association for the study of Insurance Economics



The Pensions Regulator

It is the UK regulator of work-based pension schemes. It's principal aim is to prevent problems from developing. They use their powers flexibly, reasonably and appropriately, with the aim of putting things right and keeping schemes on the right track for the long term. More>>

THE GREEK SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM

MINISTRY OF LABOUR AND SOCIAL SECURITY, GENERAL SECRETARIAT OF SOCIAL SECURITY
Athens, 2002

EKAS
For those on a low pension you may not be aware that there is a Pension solidarity payment called EKAS. Details of eligibility and amounts payable are in the artcile.
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/poverty/expert/docs/responses/Greece.pdf

Executive summary of the
2009 AGE Statement on Pensions
“Ensuring adequate pensions for all in the EU - a shared responsibility for society “
, October 2009
Read it here

AGE-Plarform calls on Member States to stop discriminating against retired people who wish to continue to work

The Belgian minister for pensions, Marie Arena announced recently that 2422 Belgian retirees have lost the equivalent of one year of their pension provision because they had earned more than the authorised amount through employment on top of their pension. At the same time, the European Summit recently agreed that all Member States should aim at keeping people at work for as long as possible to help the economy recover and to meet the demographic challenge. Despite that some national governments are maintaining outdated disincentives to work past retirement age while they should on the contrary enable older people to continue to work even when they have reached retirement age.

AGE recommends to national public authorities to remove any measure which is against the principle of active ageing promoted by the European Union and which creates unjustified barriers for retired people who choose or need to continue to work. AGE reiterates its call to allow pensioners to continue to work and receive pension provision at the same time. In order to effectively cope with the demographic challenge and ensure the long term sustainability of our pension systems, European governments should not only promote measures to smooth the transition between active life and retirement, but also introduce incentives for those who wish to work beyond pensionable age and/or need to do so in order to supplement their old-age income.

For more information, please contact Maciej Kucharczyk, AGE Policy Officer at Maciej.kucharczyk@age-platform.org Or info@age-platform.org

What impact is the financial crisis having on pension schemes in the EU?

Pensions are not immune from the financial crisis. But the long term nature of pensions gives some natural protection. It is important to distinguish between the different types of pension schemes used as the precise impact will depend on the specific mix of schemes in place in any particular Member State. The Commission has recently issued a report on the impact of the crisis on the various pensions systems across the EU. 
To access the report:
http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/09/99&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

Correcting gender inequality in pensions. The experience of five European countries
http://www.globalaging.org/elderrights/world/2009/correcting.pdf

If you are employed in Greece you will pay into one of the major social Funds and you should search for information abut your obligations and rights on the relevant web site. There is a huge reorganization of the insurance funds and some consolidation. Few of these will of interest to you, unless you work as a Greek citizen.
The EU Member States tend to have agreements about pension rights  which may be cumulative or separate.
Exclusively affecting those in receipt of a Greek pension  below the minimum level of income, may also apply for EKAS, a supplementary amount paid to those below the stated  levels.
 

The General Secretariat for Social Insurance is the government body with responsibility for information about  and the law concerning health and social insurance.
http://ggka.citron.gr/frontoffice/portal.asp?cpage=NODE&cnode=1&clang=1

IKA is the largest social insurance body  and produces its information in a number of languages  including English  however the data in this part of the site is very out of date. - http://www.ika.gr/en/home.cfm

For farmers the Agricultural Workers Fund is the relevant social insurance body and is only in Greek – so see the Greek site

For the self employed the Insurance Organization for the Self employed is the relevant source of information. The Οργανισμός Ασφάλισης Ελευθέρων Επαγγελματιών (ΟΑΕΕ) is currently reconstructing its site which will also  have information in English and German.
Current  actuarial subjects and news reports are dealt with (In Greek) on the site  Νέα από τα ασφαλιστικά ταμεία

Other useful sources of financial and pension information are available
1.    for the UK  from www.saga.co.uk/money articles by Paul Lewis.  June 2008 he lists the conditions for receiving pensions and benefits abroad.
2. Age-Concern England provies some guidance for those planning or living abroad. http://www.ageconcern.org.uk/AgeConcern/info_guide_16.asp

For those who age in Greece but suddenly find yourselves in real economic difficulties e.g. because of a changing health situation or, as recently the drop in the value of the dollar or pound, there is little that can be directly done.
If you are a UK citizen check to see you are receiving the amounts to which you are entitled. For people with service backgrounds, organizations like the Royal British Legion and SSAFA can usually offer some support and also make grants available. We are unaware of any branches in Greece but let us know if there is  an informal structure; you can always contact them and get advice by phone or email.  Age Concern England has also offered to help and we are looking to see how we can work with them in the future.

For the UK look on
http://www.ageconcern.org.uk/AgeConcern/income_pensions_information.asp

Advice about living abroad see
http://www.ageconcern.org.uk/AgeConcern/info_guide_16.asp

Advice on financial matters see
http://www.helptheaged.org.uk/en-gb/AdviceSupport/FinancialAdvice/

Another useful site is http://www.seniorsnetwork.co.uk/retiringabroad/index.htm

Australian citizens or those who have worked there and anyone else why likes games and a very interesting and useful site should look at :
http://www.aboutseniors.com.au/

GREEK-AUSTRALIAN TIES - Pension Rights Consolidated
As of October 1st,2008, the bilateral agreement between Greece and Australia regulating social insurance and pension entitlements of some 50,000 Greek-Australians abroad will be in effect. The agreement will provide improved access to the old-age pension for people in Australia and Greece, allowing people who live in either country to claim their entitlement to pensions from both countries. It will also reduce costs for businesses operating in Australia and Greece.
Greeks living in Australia have long been petitioning for pension regulations, as until recently, those returning had been unable to claim the entire pension to which they were entitled, based on their years of work in Australia.
More>>

For USA citizens the Vets administration may be able to help those who served with the military.
The AARP offers some advice through their web site
Frequently Asked Questions: U.S. Citizens Living Abroad
http://www.aarp.org/worldwide/a2004-09-29-faq-livingabroad.html
 
Links to Useful Resources on Living Abroad
http://www.aarp.org/family/housing/articles/links.html
 
Frequently Asked Questions
http://www.aarp.org/worldwide/a2004-09-28-faq-movingabroad.html
 
Greek-Aussie pension deal in October
http://www.athensnews.gr/athweb/nathens.prnt_article?e=C&f=&t=11&m=A14&aa=3

The various English speaking churches, Non governmental organizations such as CARITAS, the Red Cross, Doctors of the World and Doctors without Borders, may be able to offer some limited support here.

Please let us know of any other useful links.

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