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Back to Pensiones: viva la irresponsabilidad

Santiago Álvarez de Mon, Professor, IESE, University of Navarra

Pensions: long live irresponsibility

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 08:35:20 +0000 Published in Expansion (Madrid)

First of all, a statistical bath (data from high school of Family Policy). We are more than 46 million Spaniards, with a life expectancy at birth of 81 years. From 1981 to 2009, the population over 65 years of age -almost 8 million- has increased by 3.5 million, an increase of 84%, representing 17% of the total. Likewise, in the same period, 3 million young people under 14 years of age have been lost. There are one million more elderly people than young people, the latter accounting for only 14.5%. In the year 2050, one out of every three Spaniards will be over 65 years old. By then the age pyramid will have radically inverted, with the elderly being the majority segment. For every 3 seniors, there will be only 5 people of working age (today, there are 4 for every senior). issue In 10 years, the number of pensioners has increased by one million, reaching 8.5 million in 2009. Conclusion: we are aging unstoppably. Immersed in this icy demographic winter, is it obligatory to talk about the public pension system, or is it better not to shake it? With all the nuances that the delicacy and seriousness of the matter deserves -for example, there are widow's pensions that should be sacred, others, a bargain to be eliminated; there are jobs that, due to their physical rigor, require a well-deserved rest-, the answer seems obvious. You can't fight stubborn reality, it always ends up catching up with you. Let's see how they deal with it.

- Government. It does it late -still dragging its initial serious mistake of denying or minimizing the seriousness of the crisis-, badly -being a State topic , it lacks dialogue with other parties- and with doubtful conviction. It is perceived that he acts reactively, forced by circumstances, with little credibility. Moving from the pleasing speech of rights to a more demanding and unpopular one of duties and sacrifices is not easy, and for this president, especially cumbersome, he lacks credit and confidence. That said, better late than never.

- Unions and CEOE. I am perplexed by the singular protagonism of social agents with serious internal problems and with doubtful roots in the business and social fabric of Spain. The unions' situation is for grade. Quotas of membership are among the lowest in Europe, stranded in an ideological reading of the business, they live on government subsidies. In order to give a pulse to power, it is necessary to be independent, and that is the last thing our unions are. How many blackmails accepted for the sake of social "peace"? How many decisions postponed for fear of a strike? Entrenched in public administrations and large companies, they marginalize a sensitive and growing portion of young people, workers and self-employed who do not feel represented.

- Companies. They also deserve a wake-up call. They embrace and sell a flowery paradigm on human capital, while sending 50-year-old professionals home. Do they at least compensate for it by hiring and training young people condemned to the cold of the street? Assuming that the labor market is to be made more flexible and simplified, is the amount of dismissal the first point to be negotiated?

- Finally, the loyal civil service examination. For once, when the Government puts a strategic issue on the table, it does not take five minutes to reply that inalienable rights are being curtailed. Suddenly, an attack of progressivism and sensitivity comes on, a consequence of a pathological inferiority complex. Statutes, nuclear energy, pensions... an exercise of opportunism and inconsistency. They only need to embrace Candido, raise their fist and sing the Internationale.

Yesterday, I was with a typical Spanish family. Couple and two children. The father, early retired at the age of 52. The mother, a little younger, clinging to her work as an employee. The eldest son, programs of study finished, looking for work like a madman. The three of them, pissed off, comment on the wastefulness of the state, regional and municipal administrations. Useless ministries, obscure subsidies, advisors in bulk, the conversation hurt. The youngest, 23 years old, about to finish his degree program, takes grade of everything and hesitates between becoming a civil servant or becoming a politician.

A controversial and unsupportive country, its workers, young people and pensioners do not deserve these gentrified professionals of politics and power.