We live more and more years and with a better quality of life. Those who retire today have, in most cases, many years ahead of them to enjoy family, travel, sports or work, according to their preferences and their freedom of decision. Curiously, the law does not help us to do so and requires certain requirements for citizens to access the retirement pension.
One of them is that the pension, with some exceptions, is incompatible with work. Worker and pensioner are thus exclusive terms. This approach was logical (rather unavoidable) when the Social Security regulations were established many years ago. Back then, when life expectancy was less than 65 years, people who were retiring were unable to work due to their advanced age. However, things have changed today. There are many people aged 65 and over who, enjoying good health and freely choosing to continue working, do not do so because the law does not allow it or, at least, it does not make it easy for them. Either they work, or they collect the pension. This makes many people still think that retirement is mandatory and that, once the age and contribution requirements are met, it is the only alternative.
This scenario of incompatibility does not make much sense in these times and even less, in one of the societies with the highest life expectancy in the world. More or less, today we have approximately two workers (contributors) for each pensioner. It is estimated that by 2050 the ratio will be 1.5 to 1, which is an obvious challenge for the pension system. In fact, there are already some provinces in which there are more pensioners than contributors. To close the circle, the activity and employment rate of the elderly in Spain is the lowest in the European Union (EU). Most EU countries have protection systems in which full compatibility between work and pension is the general rule. Those who voluntarily want to continue working win, public accounts win, companies win and society wins, which does not ignore or despise senior talent willing to remain active.
Our retirement regulations are complex and not very transparent. In addition, it is full of peculiarities, which makes it difficult to understand and make decisions about something that affects the vast majority of the population. Maintaining specialties or exceptional situations does not help to understand the regulation and its objectives and can generate mistrust in the protection system.
Two legal reforms have recently taken place that continue to affect the regulation of exceptional or particular situations. The first case refers to retired doctors who rejoin the public health system, who will be able to collect 75% of their pension and work. The second refers to the artists. In this case, the compatibility is 100% of the pension with work in artistic activities or in support of them.
Book writers and creators who generate copyrights already had a system of compatibility of their pensions with the collection of their rights for intellectual creation. The logic was that the creation would have occurred while they were active and the rights were collected later, even when they were already withdrawn. The exception is now extended to all artists and technical personnel and, the justification for exceptionality is diluted in the protection of a sector as important as culture, just as in the case of doctors, it is hooked on the need to cover foreseeable deficiencies in the public health system.
All of the above is fine and the justifications are very laudable, but the situation is similar in many other public and private activities, ignored by the legislator. Regulating the exceptions not only does not solve the general problem, but also raises obvious grievances for very similar situations that receive much less favorable treatment. Why can a doctor collect 75% of the pension and an artist 100%? Why can’t that same doctor collect his pension and work, at the same time, in the private sector?
An electrician who works as technical support in the artistic field will be able to collect his retirement pension and continue working, while an electrician in the automotive sector —or any other— will not be able to do so. Does anyone understand? Why some yes and others no?
It is necessary to bet on regulating the full compatibility of retirement pensions and encouraging the work of all those who voluntarily want to remain active once they have generated their pension. If the strategy is only to regulate the exceptions for extraordinary situations and cases, we are confirming the rule, which is not fully understood.
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