Chancellor candidates have argued over the future of the German pension system, offering opposite views to the public in the second televised debate which took place yesterday, as the general election on 26 September approaches.

Olaf Scholz, chancellor candidate for the Social Democratic Party (SPD), now leading in the polls, said his party would “guarantee that the retirement age will not increase and that the level of pension remains stable,” also with an eye to the younger generation.

The SPD has promised in its electoral programme to keep the level of pensions at least at 48% of the average wage.

Scholz attacked experts that in the 1990s said that “it all didn’t work anymore with the pension,” predicting that contributions would increase and the number of employees would decrease, while the opposite has happened.

“We pay a lower contribution today than we did at the time of (chancellor) Helmut Kohl. We have now six million more employees paying for pensions, and we have to make sure in the future that many have a good job,” Scholz said.

In its electoral programme, the SPD made clear that the supplementary, private old-age provision isn’t a substitute for the statutory pension.

The party supports expanding the statutory pension to self-employed, civil servants and freelance professions and promises to protect long-term insured people who want to retire before reaching the retirement age from pension cuts.

The SPD is also campaigning for a new standardised, private pension product that is inexpensive, digital and, based on the Swedish model, which is offered by a public institution.

Armin Laschet, the chancellor candidate for the Union alliance made of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), accused Scholz of not making “serious” promises with regards to a stable level of pensions, adding: “We will have to think about new forms [of pensions]. There are pension commissions for this.”

If Laschet were to be elected, there would be a “cross-party” consensus, also with opposition forces, to design a new pension system.

The German pension system needs adjustments also through the CDU’s proposal of the generational pension (Generationenrente), foreseeing a fund with contributions for each newborn “whose pension is secured in the future”, he said.

“We need to have a better system for company pension schemes, the Riester Rente is ineffective and unattractive,” Laschet added.

Annalena Baerbock, the chancellor candidate for the Greens, also spoke in favour of stabilising the level of pensions and the contribution rate. She mentioned four main points to reinforce the statutory pension, including the migration to Germany of skilled employees that pay for pensions, a minimum wage of €12 per hour, to allow women to work full time, and giving the possibility to self-employed to pay contributions in the statutory pension system.

The Greens consider funded forms of old-age provision as a supplement to the pay-as-you-go system. It has pitched in its electoral programme the idea of a Bürgerfonds, a publicly managed, politically independent fund that invests complying to ESG principles.

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