AUSTRIA - Contribution increases to the first pillar pension, designed to cope with demographic changes, should not be left to "soulless calculating machines", Austrian social affairs minister  Erwin Buchinger has suggested.

Buchinger, of the social democratic party SPÖ, has spoken out against an automated adjustment to contributions and payouts in the first pillar corresponding, on the back of demographic changes.

He outlined emergency plans in case life expectancy should increase by more than six years, as currently prognosed, over the next 50 years.

However, Buchinger added he did not think "such a scenario was very likely" based on forecasts by various economic and pension-related experts.

"From what we know currently, pensions are safe until 2050," he said in a statement.

His party's partner in the government coalition, the conservative ÖVP, wants to set down details on measures to deal with sudden increases in the life expectancy making political discussions unnecessary.

Buchinger noted the social ministry has an obligation to report any unexpected change to the longevity assumptions to the other members of the government immediately.

A check-up on the sustainability of the pension system is usually conducted every three years.

After filing this report the government would then have to negotiate details of the measures which can be taken.

Buchinger stressed he wants to ensure the burden of any such changes goes in equal shares to those paying in as well as those receiving payouts from the system.

Another emergency marker would be reached should the amount the government has to pay into the  first pillar increase to over 3.2% from current limit of 2.3% or the expected long-term average of 3.14%.

However, a year ago the International Monetary Fund (IMF) called calculations by the Austrian government on pension spending "too optimistic". (See earlier IPE story: Austria too optimistic on pensions - IMF)

The IMF had looked at calculations made by the government which suggested the government's contribution to any pension paid-out would sink from the current 14% - one of the highest in Europe - to 12.25% by 2050.

Instead, the international body said it expects 18% of every pension to have to be paid from the federal budget by then.