Any change to the State pension scheme should see workers qualifying for their full pension after a maximum of 30 years, according to former social protection minister Joan Burton.
She was speaking after it emerged that Commission on Pensions is set to recommend that workers should only qualify for the full pension after working for 40 years – or making 2,040 PRSI contributions.
The Irish Independent reports that the proposed 40-year period would allow for 20 years’ worth of ‘credited’ contributions – recognising time spent away from the workforce for things like raising children or caring for sick or vulnerable relatives.
It calls for the changes to be phased in over a 10-year period.
On Lunchtime Live this afternoon, former Tánaiste and Labour Party leader Joan Burton said major changes of this kind need to be phased in over a much longer period.
“Just let me say I don’t think it should be 40 years,” she said.
“I think a transition to 40 years over - the leaks are suggesting - a ten-to-20-year period, I don’t think that is at all adequate in terms of giving people notice.
“I would imagine that the maximum period there should be only 30 and it could even be less – because what you need with pensions and anything to do with pensions is a very long lead-in time.”
Ms Burton said it is essential that the report is published as soon as possible so workers are not left to learn about it through “a series of leaks” in the papers.
She also said workers need to know for certain that, if we are to move to a 40-year model, the 20-years of credit will still apply for home-carers.
She said the pensions question is all the more important due to the housing crisis facing the country.
“Say somebody is 40 at the moment and they haven’t yet had an opportunity to buy a house if they want to because they are too expensive or their job doesn’t pay enough or they haven’t the funds,” she said.
“You have to bear in mind that when they reach whatever the pension retirement age is, their income will fall dramatically from being a working adult.
“So, I don’t know if the commission has looked at what are the likely resources of people who will be coming of pension age when these changes go in. That will have to be taken into account.”
She said one option would be to offer Housing Assistance Payments to renters when they retire.
“If we don’t sort the housing crisis, people who are in their 40s today could hit a very lean period after 60 if they have to retire after 65 – which they shouldn’t have to – and their income plummets so they can’t meet their expensive rent and they need support,” she said.
“It is a very complex whole of society issue.”
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