The discussion initiated by Chancellor Scholz about a later actual entry into retirement does not leave employers indifferent. They used to like to send their people into early retirement. Why that has changed and how craftsmen in particular are about early retirement – a picture of the mood.

Carrying heavy buckets of paint, plastering, masking, working overhead for hours – working as a painter is exhausting. “There are certainly even tougher jobs in the trades – scaffolders or roofers, for example,” says Kevin Wöhe. “But depending on the temperatures, it’s also a day job for us.” A friend, 43 like him, can hardly get out of bed in the morning because of the pain. “You can tell that people underestimate how 20 or 25 years in the trade can make a difference.” Practically everyone at 40 has their first ailments, if not worse.

Christian Schuster is the owner of a carpentry shop in Geseke in East Westphalia and, as head foreman of the Soest-Lippstadt carpentry guild, has been leading the discussion for a long time: “You have to look at it differently: In our interior design department, it would definitely be possible for some people to work until they are 70. But of course you can’t make that the rule for everyone. At some point, many have physical complaints.”

Schuster is in favor of flexibility: “I really like the idea of ​​people working as long as they can and want.” He himself tries to respond to the needs of the employees in the company, as far as the personnel situation allows. Older people would tend to work in production and less on the construction site or assembly line.

Germany is discussing pensions this winter. Just like in August. At that time, the President of the Group, Stefan Wolf, a representative of the companies, started the debate with the words “we will have to work longer and harder”. Now it was Chancellor Olaf Scholz, an SPD man, who did not plead for a later statutory pension, but for the actual retirement date to come closer to the statutory date.

On average, Germans currently work until their 64th birthday. The legal date for the pension without deduction is currently 65 years and eleven months. By 2031, it will gradually increase to 67 years.

The advocates of later retirement cite as arguments the difficult financing of the statutory pension in view of the demographic development. In addition, it would slow down the shortage of skilled workers if people worked longer – there are currently 1.8 million vacancies in Germany.

Those who argue against later retirement point to the health of the elderly: “The idea that you should work in a steel mill or at the supermarket checkout, as a police officer or as a nurse until you are 70, can only be had by people who work in a live in a completely different world,” says Federal Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil (SPD), for example.

In fact, according to medical studies, a 65-year-old is as fit today as a 55-year-old was in 1970. But this average value does not help those who have to work hard physically. And according to the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, that’s 23 percent of the workforce: so many often have to lift or carry heavy loads.

17 percent act in a bent, squatting, kneeling or overhead position. This applies in particular to jobs in the trades, construction and gardening, plumbers and sanitary professions, but also in nursing and gastronomy. The amount of physical labor has hardly decreased since 2012. Since then, however, the rate of burnout diseases has increased by around 20 percent. The psychological stress is therefore increasing or is at least being noticed more frequently: Many people complain about the increase in working hours and the dissolution of boundaries between private life and work.

No wonder unions are up in arms about later retirement. “Many are already broken beforehand and save themselves by retiring. Anyone who ignores this can still demand that people work longer,” says Hans-Jürgen Urban, executive board member of IG Metall.

In the current pension debate, he is not concerned enough with the reality of people’s lives. “It’s not about age, it’s about people’s working conditions. Employees must want to work and be able to work,” says Urban. Pension law does not prohibit anyone from working longer. But the problem lies in the working conditions in the offices and workshops and in the mentality of some managers. “Many companies cannot and do not want to keep their older employees and their experience. The stress and physical strain of an entire working life drives people out of the company.”

The German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) also reacted dismissively to Wolf’s idea: Retirement at 70 “is nothing more than a pension reduction with an announcement,” said DGB board member Anja Piel. Judith Kerschbaumer, head of the labor market and social policy department at Verdi, emphasizes that the life expectancy of Germans has fallen again: “This means no further increase in the retirement age if the ratio is maintained. The scaremongering of the ‘many old people’ has less basis than assumed.”

Employer President Rainer Dulger, on the other hand, thinks the government’s impulse is right: “The Chancellor is right: there must be no trend towards early retirement. We need the wealth of experience of older people in our companies – that too is sustainability.” The association representative refers to the problems caused by the shortage of workers and skilled workers and demands: “Then Chancellor Scholz should also ensure that his Minister of Labor now as soon as possible subsidizes the Early retirement ended.” Germany can no longer afford to allow hundreds of thousands to retire early without deductions every year.

But the truth is that many companies have gratefully accepted the state’s options for early retirement in recent years and have developed early retirement schemes. Such options were gladly offered to employees who had lost their ability to perform or who could not cope with the technological change. This picture has changed noticeably since labor has become scarce. Early retirement is now more of a curse than a blessing for most employers. They would prefer if their employees no longer had this option.

Specialists with a great deal of experience are particularly needed – in practically all sectors. Doctors, engineers in machine and vehicle construction, practically all companies that need electrical engineers, programmers or IT and software developers are particularly affected by the shortage of workers and skilled workers. Other parts of the craft suffer from worries about young people and the area that is probably best known to the public: the health care system, above all the care of the elderly and the sick.

The list shows that the calculation “higher retirement age has a positive effect on the shortage of skilled workers” does not apply without further ado. Because most of the industries mentioned require either tough physical resilience or special skills that not all over 60-year-olds necessarily have. The programmer market tends to be made up of younger people. Craftsmen do heavy physical work that you can hardly do at 68. The situation is similar in nursing and care for the elderly.

Many employers also consider the proposal by economist Michael Hüther to be sensible. The director of the German Economic Institute (IW) proposes increasing working hours to 42 hours a week: “Of course, the hours are paid – it’s not about cutting wages through the back door,” he said. “If you add that up, then by 2030 you would compensate for the demographically induced loss of workload.”

Schreiner Schuster would also find it better to work more hours a week than up to the age of 70. The atmosphere in the company or specifically on the construction site is also important: “If work is also a bit of a passion, then two more hours a week won’t hurt me. Many of my employees do not look at the clock either. But it is also clear to me that not all Germans currently have this attitude to work.”

The article “Working longer before retirement? That’s what the company bosses say about the Scholz advance” comes from WirtschaftsKurier.