EUROPE – Vladimir Spidla, the European Union’s employment and social affairs commissioner, has called for a rethink of pension schemes and retirement – adding that early retirement is a shortsighted answer.

“We need to re-think retirement and pension schemes,” the former Czech prime minister told a conference in Slovenia today.

He told delegates: “Early retirement schemes provide only short-term - and short-sighted - answers to economic downturns and restructuring. In fact, they are a permanent loss of human capital that Europe cannot afford.

“How can people retire five to ten years early when their parents are living six to eight years longer?”

He was speaking at the 18th International Congress of EURAG, the European Federation of Older Persons, in Ljubljana.

He said the EU can pull member states together to identify good practices and share ideas that work.

“The responsibility for pension reform clearly lies with the Member States, but there is an important EU dimension too. Inter-governmental co-ordination at EU level provides strong support to national policy makers, helping them to modernise and adapt.”

He added that the Commission is currently assessing the second round of national strategy reports on adequate and sustainable pensions.

“We can already see that some progress has been made. A number of countries have put an emphasis on improving the situation of older people. In Spain and Portugal, for example, minimum income levels have grown.

“The national strategy reports need to look more at the future of pensions in the wider context of employment and budgetary policies. It is not just about tweaking retirement schemes - it is about developing broad integrated approaches to reform.”

Spidla also disclosed that the Commission will publish a White Paper on ageing at the end of this year.

“I believe we still need to close the gap between demographic trends and public policies,” he said. “To defend the values of the European social model, and to deliver the improved quality of life that longevity will bring, means modernising the practices that define solidarity between generations.”