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German MPs under pensions scrutiny

GERMANY – Federal MPs should start paying for their own pensions immediately after the next election, says the Confederation of Taxpayers, or BdSt.

Confederation president Karl Heinz Däke suggested in an interview with the German press that MPs make their own pension arrangements in return for a pay raise soon after the forthcoming general election, which is expected in September.

The idea is similar to a law passed in March by the parliament of the Nordrhein-Westfalen region.

Däke stressed that at the moment a federal MP is entitled to a pension, without paying contribution, after eight years, with the pension paid at 65. The current deal envisages a minimum pension of €1,682 a month.

After a 23-year parliament career, an MP can be entitled to up to €4,386. Däke pointed out that an employee with an average income should work 185 years and a “top-earner” 88 years to secure the same pension promise.

Changing the pension rules at the federal parliament would represent “a great opportunity” for MPs to embark on a fresh start and engender public confidence.

A spokesman for the federal parliament explained to IPE that the debate about MPs’ pension entitlements had always been topical but has recently intensified.

He said that in the first eight years of an MP’s career the state pays a 24% contribution, which grows 3% for each extra year until it reaches the maximum threshold of 69%.

BdSt spokesman Jens Wegner told IPE the issue was about “trust, credibility and accountability”.

He added that although there has been no official reference to pension changes, the recent vote in Nordrhein-Westfalen offered ground for hope that similar reform could take place at the federal level.

The BdSt was founded in 1949 and lobbies for a simpler and more equal tax system.

Separately, new research has revealed that MPs and ministers change their pension promises only “under duress”.

Lisa Hoffmann, a sociology student at the Humboldt-Universität in Berlin, researched pension changes on national and regional level for her dissertation and found out that in certain regions MPs acquire pension rights after one year and in some others they enjoy pensions are as high as their national counterparts.

She also argues that when cuts occur they are smaller than in the public sector.

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