AUSTRIA – An Austrian think-tank has called for pensions to be adjusted to the number of the pensioner’s children making the childless liable to cuts of up to 50% in their pension benefits.

The suggestion, which was made by Austria Perspectiv in its report Challenges of Demographic Change, provoked a heated response.

The report pinpoints the effects of the decrease of birth rates on the global and Austrian economies and proposes ways to cope with the issues, including assisting working mothers with kindergarten facilities, programming immigration and promoting economic growth.

The report describes state pensions as “an insurance against childlessness”. It claims that despite being the recipient of state benefits, families with children foot the bill for childless pensioners who have not faced the expenses of child rearing.

Referring to the head of the Munich-based Ifo Institute for Economic Research, the report says: “To Hans-Werner Sinn a pension reduction by half for the average pensioner without children seems advisable”.

Ifo confirmed to IPE that Sinn made the remark.

The suggestion has provoked mixed responses in Austria. Markus Beyrer, general secretary of the Federation of Austrian Industry, has said that the idea is “worth considering.”

But Austria’s Federal Economic Chamber has spoken of “punishment for the childless” who help finance the contributions of families with children.

And Renate Csörgits, vice president of the Austrian Federal Trade Unions Association (ÖGB) and chairman of its Women section, ÖGB-Frauen, issued a statement declaring: “ÖGB-Frauen categorically rejects the suggestion” and denouncing Beyrer’s response.

“There is no question of us punishing people without children,” Csörgits added. “Instead of advocating cuts in the pensions of childless people, Herr Beyrer should motivate employers to create corporate kindergartens.”

Austria only has kindergartens places for 9% of children aged under three, she said.

Austria Perspectiv was established in 2002 by the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, the Federation of Austrian Industry and private enterprises.