(社説)年金受給年齢 信頼をこわさぬように

May 24, 2014
EDITORIAL: Securing public confidence vital for pension reform
(社説)年金受給年齢 信頼をこわさぬように

A hot topic in the media is when is the best time for people to start receiving pension benefits.
Interest in the issue surged after Norihisa Tamura, the welfare minister, indicated that the government will consider allowing people to push back the age at which they start receiving benefits to 75.

Discussions on the minimum or best age to claim state pension benefits tend to cause misunderstandings. The government should tread carefully in considering any related proposal to avoid undermining public confidence that is vital for the health of the state pension program.

First of all, it should be noted that Tamura did not say the age of eligibility, or the earliest age at which people can claim benefits, will be delayed to 75.

Currently, people can freely choose the age to start receiving benefits between ages 60 and 70. The proposal Tamura referred to would raise the maximum age to 75.

If you begin receiving benefits earlier, you will naturally receive money over a longer period, but the monthly amount will be smaller. If you delay the start, the monthly benefits will be larger.

People can choose the age at which they become pensioners according to their own life plans.

What is controversial is the proposal to increase the age of eligibility for all recipients as a way to improve the financially troubled pension system.

This approach would increase funds to finance pension benefits for future retirees by reducing current pension payouts.

But this idea would not necessarily benefit younger generations because the age of eligibility cannot be raised at once.

Currently, the earliest age retired corporate employees can claim the earnings-linked second tier of benefits under the employees’ pension program is being increased in stages from 60 to 65.
The entire process, from the decision to increase the pension age to the completion of the increase, will take 25 to 30 years.

Even if the government decides now to increase the age of pension eligibility to 68 for all retired employees, the decision would not affect today’s elderly pensioners.

Cuts in benefits due to the increase in the age of eligibility would start with young generations who tend to be deeply discontent with the current pension system. That means this idea would not do much to reduce the pension gap between generations.

The step could even increase young generations’ resentment toward the system and create an enormous wave of distrust of the whole social system that is supposed to support people’s retirement.

Rather, the government should focus on considering reform measures that also affect people who are already receiving pensions. Ideas that merit serious consideration include a system for macroeconomic adjustment that would reduce pension payouts if the population shrinks, as well as reviews of the taxation on pensions and assets.

What is crucial is to reassure people that they will receive pension benefits to help support themselves until the end of their lives. To ensure such a sense of security, the government should figure out the levels of benefits that need to be maintained while taking effective steps to increase job opportunities for the elderly.

If the government rushes into cuts in benefits in its efforts to ensure the financial sustainability of the pension plan, it would risk raising fears among people that they will not receive sufficient pensions in their retirement. That would make absolutely no sense.

Policymakers should not forget the importance of combining employment and pension for making people’s retirement financially secure.

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 24

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