Chancellor Olaf Scholz wants more people to work until the age of 67. Eight years after the introduction of the pension at 63, the Social Democrats have arrived in reality in the form of their chancellor.

Imagine if opposition leader Friedrich Merz (CDU) called for the abolition of pensions at 63. That would be castigated as neoliberal, downright inhuman social indifference. A storm of protest would break out in the media, especially in the public sector. Social cohesion would be in danger – allegedly.

Now, of all people, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), who brings his social attitude to market from morning to night, is putting his hand on the pension at 63. No, he doesn’t want to abolish it. But he laments their negative effects on the labor market and would like to increase the proportion of those “who can really work until retirement age”. However, the chancellor does not reveal how he intends to do this.

The government will not get anywhere with appeals alone. After all, since 2014 employees who, after 45 years of contributions, retire two years early without deductions, only take what the state offers them. Since the introduction of this “pension de luxe” more than two million employees have taken advantage of it. In the past year alone, almost every third person drawing an old-age pension for the first time took advantage of this option – and the trend is rising.

If you want to persuade this group of people to work until they reach the official retirement age, you will have to offer them something, for example a bonus on their pension. That would then be a political joke of a special kind: First offer the employees an earlier retirement and then give them money to make them stay.

Retirement at 63 was and is primarily a gift to skilled workers from the baby boomers born between 1951 and 1963, who began their apprenticeships right after school – at that time at the age of 15 or 16 – and sometimes worked their way up to become a master craftsman and later often held important positions revenue. The fact that this group of people is politically more inclined towards the SPD was the reason why the Social Democrats made retirement at 63 a central issue in the 2013 federal election campaign.

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In the subsequent coalition negotiations with the CDU/CSU about a new version of the grand coalition, the SPD insisted on this new social benefit. The Union, in turn, took part because in return it was able to enforce one of its campaign promises: the extension of the “mother’s duck” to the parents of children born before 1992. It was a classic party-political compromise – and a very expensive one at that.

Economists had warned even then that giving preference to this group of workers would increase the shortage of skilled workers. The GroKo also saw the problem that Germany threatened to run out of qualified workers. In the 2013 coalition agreement, the terms skilled workers, shortage of skilled workers, securing skilled workers, need for skilled workers, proof of skilled workers and skilled labor base appeared a total of 31 times. Always with an imploring undertone, always with the promise that every effort will be made to counteract the impending gap. And then Black-Red did exactly the opposite with the pension at 63.

Franz Ruland, one of the most renowned pension experts in Germany, even left the SPD out of anger at the pension policy. His reason: “I can no longer and do not want to belong to a party that, against the advice of all experts, irresponsibly pursues clientele politics with its pension policy.”

So let’s look at it positively. Eight years after the introduction of the pension at 63, the Social Democrats have arrived in reality in the form of their chancellor. Now it is to be welcomed when politicians are not afraid to admit their own mistakes and look for the possibility of correction. Better late than never!

In the case of the SPD, however, there are more and more instances in which the party conducts its own politics. What was once very important and very right suddenly no longer applies. The SPD is currently making sales. Whether it’s Hartz IV, retirement at 63 or the flat rate per case introduced under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder – “everything has to go”. The only thing missing is that the SPD also moves away from the demand for higher taxes for the “rich”. True to the Adenauer motto, “No one can stop me from becoming wiser overnight.”