A pensions expert has warned that there are anomalies in the current pension system and that changes must be made before the pension age can be raised.
Dr Jim Stewart of Trinity College Dublin has said there is a “window of opportunity” at present because the Social Insurance Fund is in surplus.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio’sshow, he said he was surprised the issue has become so topical on the campaign trail given that the anomalies have existed for some time.
If the retirement age is to be increased as planned – to 67 this year and 68 in 2028 then the Government needs to introduce a number of other measures, one of which is to change current employment contracts where people have to retire at the age of 65.
If people wish to work longer then they should accrue additional pension entitlements, he said.
Dr Stewart also pointed out the difficulties faced by those forced to stop working at 65 who cannot access the State pension until the age of 67. The anomalies for people seeking Job Seekers Benefit having to show that they are genuinely seeking employment could be onerous if strictly implemented.
There needs to be immediate change, he urged. The Social Insurance Fund at present has a surplus of €1.4bn, he said, which offered a window of opportunity to implement changes.
However, Dr Stewart warned that it was not sustainable to bring back the pension age to 65. There is a need to “push out the pension age to make the Social Insurance Fund sustainable".
Earlier, Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on Social Protection, Willie O’Dea has said that if elected to power the party would institute a review of the pension age as it has to be sustainable.
However, the Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty pointed out that in 2007 Fianna Fáil had carried out a review of the fund that pays pensions.
There are now more pensioners than workers, she said. “There is a pension time bomb.”