Monday 16 September 2019

The figures may be rough, but the debate is justified

'The inevitable ageing population and our increasing dependency
ratio of workers against welfare claimants, albeit slower in Ireland than in the rest of Europe, remains a ticking time bomb.' Stock Image
'The inevitable ageing population and our increasing dependency ratio of workers against welfare claimants, albeit slower in Ireland than in the rest of Europe, remains a ticking time bomb.' Stock Image
John Downing

John Downing

Most people are at the thick end of 50 before they think about pensions. Then they realise they have woken up to the issue about 40 years too late. But enough of this irrepressible optimism just 12 days from Christmas.

I was just trying to say it is no surprise that six out of 10 private sector workers have no pension provision beyond the hope that they can subsist on the Old Age Pension.

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar is not short of paper recounting all the implications of Ireland's ticking pensions time bomb. All of 12 years ago, this writer sat with the late great Séamus Brennan in that self-same ministerial office as he outlined the pensions problem and various remedy options.

Unsurprisingly, nothing was done as it is not a voter priority. But like everything else, this problem has continued to build.

The inevitable ageing population and our increasing dependency ratio of workers against welfare claimants, albeit slower in Ireland than in the rest of Europe, remains a ticking time bomb.

At the same time, the 40pc of those in the private sector who believed they had pension cover, are getting increasingly worrying messages about the unsustainability of promised pension payments.

Investment returns were higher in days of yore and pensioners died younger. The whole pensions model is up for grabs. And that includes a look at the public sector where the provision, direct from current taxes, also looks shaky.

It is against this gloomy background that veteran industrial relations fixer John Horgan has issued his findings about Garda pay, perks and pensions. The former Labour Court head does not pull any punches and will stoke debate.

Mr Horgan finds that the Garda pay package is composed of three elements: basic pay, topped up by recent Labour Court recommendation bringing it to between €30,000 and €50,000 per year at Garda rank. He reckons allowances and overtime add a further 30pc.

But he further reckons that Garda pension entitlements require an extra €40,000 a year to fund. That would bring the real value of total average Garda emolument to around €100,000 per year.

Mr Horgan concedes his calculations are "rough and ready". But even if he is out by a nice margin, there is still food for thought and serious debate.

Let's avoid that "race to the bottom". But job security and eventual pension entitlements are part of the pay package.

For the rest, Mr Horgan's suggested link between striking and pension entitlements has certainly put the fat in the fire.

Irish Independent

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