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Giant pensioners' protest reaches Madrid
UNIONS are calling for Spain to increase investment in pension funds 'to bring the country in line with the rest of the EU'.
Numerous demonstrations staged yesterday (Monday) with pensioners from all over Spain clamoured for a solution to the government's so-called 'pension crisis', which has meant no retiree's income has gone up by more than the legal minimum of 0.25% in many years and which is even said to be threatening the future of State pensions.
But Unai Sordo, secretary-general of the Labourers' Commissions (CCOO) says there is 'no economic curse' to explain why the pensions system may not be viable in the future – all it needs is the right political decisions about how much should be spent on the pension pot.
The CCOO and General Workers' Union (UGT) believe 15% of the GDP should not be out of the question and would solve any possible future problems.
Pepe Álvarez of the UGT says Spain's 10.4% of the GDP spent on pensions is not sufficient and calls for the government to try to match the EU average of 14%.
Some of the solutions proposed include scrapping the upper limit for pension contributions or using the tax pot to top up the pension fund.
The unions want to see the pension reform of 2013 scrapped and pension increases always to be linked to inflation.
“They're pulling a fast one. They tell us our pensions have gone up by 0.25%, but in practice they've gone down by 2.75% because the cost of living has gone up by 3%,” says Manuel, a pensioner from Galicia who had jointed the protest in Madrid with his wife Iluminada.
“After 30 years of working, I'm left with a miserable €600 a month to live on, and you can't, it's impossible. They've got no right,” Iluminada storms.
A spokeswoman from another pensioners' association in Vigo, Galicia, asks: “How are you supposed to live on €700 a month? How are you supposed to pay the electricity, the water bills, the phone bills? Politicians don't think about this because they've no idea what real life is like.”
Antonio from Castilla y León says he manages well on his pension of €1,000 a month and even helps out his adult children, but joined the protest because he is concerned about the future of pensions.
“We have to protect our own pensions and those of our children, which is even more important,” he says.
Whilst Spanish State pensions are far more generous than in the UK, saving for a personal pension fund has never been part of the culture and company pensions do not exist, meaning the resulting State fund is all the majority have to live on when they retire.
And this varies by region and requires 35 years of contributions in Social Security via working to qualify for the full amount, which is calculated based upon income over the immediate 15 years before State retirement age – currently 65 but rising on a sliding scale to 67.
Depending upon whether they live in the Basque Country or Madrid, where the average pension sits at around €1,000 to €1,100, or in Murcia and other more rural, land-locked regions where the average is around €600, pensioners vary in their ability to make ends meet according to the postcode lottery.
Hundreds of thousands of pensioners have spent the last 10 days marching from all over the country to reach Madrid by October 9 – yesterday – for a huge gathering and protest.
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