Politicians agree: "Everyone will have to work until a later age"

A debate on the future of Belgium's pension system, yesterday evening in the VRT's current affairs programme Panorama (photo), shows that all the traditional political parties in Flanders support the idea of a pension reform which keeps people in work until a later age than is now the case.

The government has set the official retirement age in Belgium at 65 years. However, on average, Belgians only keep working until 59 years of age. This will have to change, all parties agree. Otherwise the pensions will put such a heavy burden on the Belgian budget that the pension system cannot  be sustained in the long run.

The Flemish Christian democrats (CD&V), socialists (SP.A), liberals (Open VLD) and nationalists (N-VA) all agree that the average retirement age will have go up in the coming years.

Everybody should try to have a career of 45 years. Those taking retirement before that, should feel the financial consequences of their decision, while those working longer should be rewarded.

Gwendolyn Rutten of Open VLD says that this system will work in both directions: "If people make a clear choice to stop, they will have to be content with less, but if they continue, they will feel the benefits."

Sonja Beck of CD&V can agree with the principle of 45 years in a job, but only on the condition that people are left with sufficient breathing space during their careers. "It should be possible to combine your job with your family, otherwise you can't carry on for 45 years."

The SP.A is willing to accept the principle of punishing employees who retire earlier, on the condition that the government takes into account the size of the pension. Bruno Tobback says that not all the problems will be solved by keeping people longer at work. The N-VA thinks that people should keep the opportunity to keep on doing extra jobs, after retirement.