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Dutch minister rejects flexible retirement age for state pension

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Wouter Koolmees, the Netherlands’ minister for social affairs, has again rejected the idea of a flexible retirement age for the country’s state pension (AOW).

Answering questions posed by Corrie van Brenk, MP for the party for the elderly (50Plus), Koolmees argued that it would be bad for the state’s finances, while implementation would be “very complicated”.

Van Brenk referred to a study by researcher Sander Muns, which concluded that a flexible AOW age could help workers in physically demanding jobs with a small occupational pension to retire early. 

His findings ran contrary to a survey, carried out by economic research institute SEO – affiliated with Amsterdam University – and commissioned by the government in 2017.

However, Muns based his survey on the assumption of a lower benefits discount for early retirement, as well as a lower social minimum income level. This would ensure that the income of workers taking early retirement would not drop below the social minimum.

However, in Koolmees’ opinion, this would put people off taking early retirement, as the SEO study had suggested that they didn’t want to end up at the social minimum level.

He added that most employees had sufficient occupational pension rights to cease working early without ending up below the social minimum.

“Therefore, the added value of a flexible AOW remains very limited,” he argued. 

An additional disadvantage of a flexible retirement age, Koolmees said, was that it would place a duty of care on the government “to prevent elderly [people] falling into poverty for the long term”.

A flexible retirement age for the AOW is one of the conditions that Dutch unions have set in order to persuade them to return to the negotiating table for wider pensions reform.

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  • Wouter Koolmees

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