Prime Minister Jüri Ratas replied to the interpellation concerning the employment of the elderly (No. 412), submitted by members of the Riigikogu Andres Herkel, Jüri Adams, Monika Haukanõmm, Krista Aru, Külliki Kübarsepp, Artur Talvik and Ain Lutsepp on 18 January.
The interpellators drew attention to the fact that the future required both a flexible pensionable age and a general rise in the pensionable age together with a rise in the average life expectancy, but effective employment of the elderly was the main prerequisite for such solutions. Giving the elderly more opportunities to actively participate in the labour market is a reasonable solution.
The interpellators wished to know what steps the Government was planning to take to amend Acts so that the elderly would be more interested in participating in the labour market.
Ratas explained that, at the moment, Estonia was in the forefront in Europe as regarded the employment of the elderly. “In Estonia, more than one fourth of 65–70-year old people are employed, while only one tenth of the people in that age group are employed on average in the EU. The employment of 55–64-year old people is also high in Estonia; 67.7 per cent of all people are employed in that age group in Estonia. When compared with the same indicators in the European Union, this percentage is 57.5. Only in three European Union Member States, the situation is better than in Estonia,” Ratas said.
The Prime Minister drew attention to the fact that discrimination of the elderly in the labour market was prohibited by the Equal Treatment Act already at that time. Employers’ awareness, and readiness and skills to act are also being actively improved in order to reduce age discrimination in the labour market.
The Prime Minister said that the Government was planning to increase flexibility over the time and place of work in employment relationships. It is hoped that, as a result of the changes, it will be possible to bring to the labour market people who prefer greater time flexibility or smaller workload or who would prefer teleworking, that is, working from home. “These changes will favour part-time working among all people, and at the same time they will also definitely be of help to the elderly,” Ratas noted. He added that we definitely also had to raise awareness of the benefits that supported part-time work of the elderly. For example, if, as a general rule, employers must pay social tax in the amount of at least 155 euro and 10 cents per month on a part-time employee, then in the case of pensioners the social tax is paid on the remuneration actually paid, even if the amount of the social tax remains below the above-mentioned amount. This exception supports part-time work of the elderly, but more often than not people are simply unaware of this.
Ratas said that the Government was planning to implement a pension reform to increase the work motivation of elderly people. Within that framework, a proposal to establish a flexible pensionable age will be made – people will be able to choose a suitable age for retirement for themselves, and also to postpone it if they wish. “It is important that a flexible pension will be paid also when the person works. For example, today, early old-age pension is not paid if a person works, which is why many elderly people give up employment,” Ratas noted. In his opinion, pensioners’ work motivation can also be raised if it is possible to withdraw the flexible pension in instalments or to postpone the receiving of pension. This would allow working pensioners to accumulate a larger pension by the time when they no longer wish to work.
The Prime Minister explained that, with the support of the funds of the European Social Fund, the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund provided all labour market services also to pension-age people. This allows elderly people to improve their skills and to find themselves a suitable occupation in the labour market. Of course it is necessary to constantly monitor that the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund provides its services in an efficient and person-centred manner, and increases the sense of security for all people and job-seekers.
The Minister of Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski replied to the interpellation concerning the investment support to health care centres (No. 413).
The Minister of Rural Affairs Tarmo Tamm replied to the interpellation concerning organic farming (No. 418).
During the open microphone, Liina Kersna took the floor.
The sitting ended at 6.10 p.m.
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