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Raising retirement age could violate human rights, court warns

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A Dutch court has ruled that raising the retirement age for the state pension could be considered a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The plaintiff in the case – a 60-year-old woman from the Frisian town of Joure – had argued that moving the start date of her Dutch state pension (AOW) two years further into the future, to early 2023, had caused her an “individual and excessive burden”.

She argued that she had very little work experience and suffered from “several progressive chronic illnesses” that hurt her chances in the job market.

She said low income prevented her from saving up or otherwise preparing herself for the longer-than-expected period without a state pension.

During the added 24 months, she has the right to a bridge pension of no more than €500-600.

The woman said she may have to sell off her house and live of the proceeds, before being allowed further income support.

According to the Dutch administrative court of first instance in Leeuwarden, this would constitute a breach of Article 1 of the first protocol of European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to the peaceful enjoyment of one’s possessions.

Exceptions to this rule are allowed in the public interest, but then the measure has to be proportional, which is not the case if a citizen must carry an “individual and excessive burden”, the court ruled.

The Sociale Verzekeringsbank, the Dutch administrator for state pensions, had argued that the promise of a state pension was not a “possession” as defined in the European Convention.

The court ruled, however, that a pension claim a person could reasonably expect to be honoured should also be considered a possession.

The Sociale Verzekeringsbank said it would appeal the decision.

In the meantime, the institution said it planned to assess the number of people who might find themselves in situations similar to that of the plaintiff.

The retirement age for the state pension in the Netherlands will be raised incrementally to 66 in 2018 and 67 in 2021.

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