GERMANY – The Social Democratic Party, which implemented two pension reforms in the former government, will continue to be responsible for pensions in the new Conservative-led government of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Speaking in Berlin, SPD chairman Franz Müntefering said his party would take charge of a newly merged ministry of labour and social affairs.

The social affairs portfolio, currently in the health ministry, includes Germany’s state pensions scheme and pensions policy generally.

However, Müntefering did not disclose who would take charge of the new ministry, noting that the SPD would name that person as well as those for seven other ministries in the next few weeks.

Müntefering himself is considered to be a top candidate as minister of labour and social affairs. Former minister Ulla Schmidt may remain in government, but would only be in charge of health.

Müntefering was speaking at a news conference following agreement between the SPD and the CDU/CSU that Merkel would replace Gerhard Schröder as chancellor and that the parties would aim to form a coalition government.

The last time labour and social affairs were combined into one ministry historic pension reforms were hatched. These reforms, named after the former SPD minister Walter Riester, were decisive in establishing second- and third-pillar pensions.

But major pension reform is not expected from the new government. Pensions experts like Professor Bert Rürup say the new government will have to decide whether to raise the retirement age to 67 and whether employers should be legally required to offer defined-contribution schemes.

Beyond labour and social affairs as well as health, the SPD will take charge of foreign affairs, finance, development and transport, environment and justice.

Merkel’s CDU and its Bavarian sister the CSU will be in charge of the remaining ministries, which include industry and technology, defence, the home office and agriculture.