Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Early retirement (Πρόωρη σύνταξη)

One of the greatest sticking points in Greek reforms was the overturning of the laws on early retirement. Greece has a ratio of one retired person for every working person, when in Europe this ratio is 1 retiree for every 4 workers. So it is truly incredible that anyone would put it in their head that this is a sustainable situation.

Let's take for example a woman with children under the age of 18: she could work for just 15 years in the public service, and then retire on a full state pension. The same person working in the private sector could complete 25 years of full employment before the age of 50 and then semi-retire, on a half-pension. So it was not just a case of retiring early: state employees were given unwarranted special attention, and people were categorised in such a way that almost anyone could seek early retirement of some sort through some loophole in some law. The working mother was seen as the holiest order in those early retirement laws, while state employment topped the ranks. 

Mothers must be with their children, as the old adage tells us. Well, most of the time, those children would often be left in the care of a grandmother while the young retiree enjoyed life. In the days when women did not work, they would look after the house. The year 1981 gave women a chance to work outside the home with the increased possibilities for employment that EU entry gave. Office jobs were created t the same time that laws were promised to allow women to retire early. While young women were working, their mothers were cooking the main meal of the day, and looking after their children. The family was and still is the most important of Greek institutions, as the crisis has shown. Greeks also live healthier and longer lives than they did in 1981, and women are more likely to start a family at a later age than in the past, something that was not taken into account when the laws for early retirement were drawn up.

My analysis above may sound judgmental; it may sound like I am suffering pangs of jealousy because I was never one of those lucky bitches who had an unpaid maid looking after her young family while she took cruises to Greek islands in the summer and visited Eastern Europe by bus in the winter, together with her youthful husband who had also found a way to retire early with a state pension. But few people realise that I too belonged to the category that could seek early retirement as a mother of underaged children. So at the grand age of 50, which I would turn in 2016, I would be a retiree, having completed 25 years of gainful employment in the Greek private sector!

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how one sees things, with the new laws, I will not be able to retire until I am 56.7 years of age: 
"Mothers insured with IKA (the state healthcare system) until 1992, who would once have been able to draw a partial pension with 5,500 working days, completed by 2012 if they had not completed their 50th birthday, will now, instead of 50 years have to wait to retire at 55; thus, they will be forced to wait a further five years. If they turn 50 in 2016, they will be forced to wait until 56.7 years, and if they turn 50 in 2017, they will wait until they are 58.4 years old."
In my situation, I would not have taken the option of early retirement, because my salary is not very high, and a partial pension would have yielded just over half my current salary, a rather low monthly sum that would not cover my family's need in the way that my salary does now. It would have resulted in financial difficulties for my family, and my husband would have felt the need to work more than he does now, at a time when he has slowed down due to age (he hasn't worked the taxi at night since the beginning of the crisis). 

But I still feel very lucky to be able to dream of early retirement on a semi-pension at 56.7 years of age. In my husband's line of work, he can only draw a state pension at the age of 67. I have a 10-year age difference with my husband. Therefore, we will be able to retire together. We can still make plans together to visit places we have never been to before we both get too decrepit. It sounds like much more fun to ride off into the Santorini sunset together than to leave one's other half waiting at home. 

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