What Happens In Germany When A Retiree Isn't Ready To Retire?

Many Germans keep working past retirement age, often on a part-time basis or in so-called “mini-jobs.” Why? Some no doubt need to the money to supplement paltry pension payments. But for the financially secure, very different factors drive them back to wo

Think this is fun? You should check out what they do at the office (burr0ughs)
Think this is fun? You should check out what they do at the office (burr0ughs)
Stefan von Borstel and Dorothea Siems

COLOGNE - If he gets a call from the company that employs him, Klaus Beckert goes to work even if it's one of his days off. When that happens, though, it's usually to deal with clients, says the 73-year-old, a qualified toolmaker and machinist. Otherwise he sticks to his normal work week routine, which means going in from Tuesday to Thursday – just three days.

Beckert, who lives in Cologne, isn't thinking of retiring. "It's not about the money," he says. "It's about having work that – even after 40 years -- I enjoy." Beckert used to work full time for the company, a family-owned technology firm called Henkelhausen GmbH. Now he does part time work as a consultant.

Henkelhausen isn't the only company that doesn't want to miss out on the experience older workers bring to the job. According to a recent survey of family-owned companies and young entrepreneurs, nearly 40% of participating companies employ workers older than 40. Medium-sized companies lead the way in employing older folks.

Due to early retirement schemes, many big businesses no longer have any older workers at all. Overall, only every second large company in Germany has any employees over 50. However, the situation looks very different in family-owned businesses: two-thirds of the firms that participated in the survey said that workers aged between 55 and 65 make up over 5% of their entire work force.

For some 13% of those companies, in fact, workers in that age range make up 20% of the total work force. "Because of demographic developments, people in Germany have to work longer," says Lutz Goebel, president of Familienunternehmer, an advocacy group for family-owned businesses. Moving retirement age to 67 is a step in the right direction, but it's not enough, he says. According to Gobel, a flexible approach to retirement would work better than just having rigid cut-off rules.

A million Germans work "mini-jobs'

Most older workers today have "mini-jobs." In Germany, more than 770,000 retirees over 65 earn a little money that way. Add to that some 530,000 mini-jobbers aged 60 to 65. The same doubtlessly applies to many early retirees, so that the total of working retirees is probably well over a million.

Some retirees are forced to work because their pensions are so low they need the extra income. For others, it's quite simply the fun of work, and the nice feeling of not being sidelined after the age of 60 or 65. Social groups and left-leaning parties tend to subscribe to the first scenario, pointing out that many people's pensions aren't large enough to live on thus forcing them to supplement their income. But there are many indications pointing to the fun factor, and the need to feel involved.

"Most people think the first two years of retirement are great," says Bremen-based Ursula Staudinger. "But after that point many people realize that work can lend meaning to lives." Staudinger belongs to the "Akademiengruppe Altern in Deutschland," a scientific research group focused on issues relating to the elderly. According to her research, 40% of early retirees would like to be working; a fifth of those in the 70 to 75 age group would still like to.

About half of Germans aged 60 to 80 say they are members of an association, or participate in civic activities such as neighborhood support groups. Researchers found that when asked about employment, most didn't want to go back to their old job or work full time. This could also explain the interest of older folks in Germany's new Bundesfreiwilligendienst, or Federal Volunteer Service, which gives people something meaningful and allows them to earn money while doing it. So far 300 retirees over 65 have signed up. There is no limit on how much they can earn, while those who have not yet reached official retirement age may earn no more than 400 euros a month or risk having their pension money drastically reduced. This too accounts for the boom in 400-euro-a-month jobs among early retirees.

Dennis Snower, president of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, is convinced that "many retirees would love to work longer if doing so didn't mean losing part of their pension. But governments keep hanging on to the notion of a retirement age that essentially means that many people have to spend a fourth of their lives either not encouraged to work or working in a shadow economy." Snower refers to older folks as "a valuable resource that's not being used."

Politicians, however, are starting to want to tap that resource. Germany's minister for social affairs, Ursula von der Leyen, has begun dialoguing with associations, unions and employers. One of the subjects under review is the rigid rule about extra income. The minister is proposing that early retirees from age 63 be able to draw on a salary no higher than their last gross salary along with their pension.

Read the original story in German

Photo - burr0ughs

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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