What qualifies as early retirement

The dream of retirement can turn into a nightmare: when the peace comes much earlier than planned. Not all workers can work until they reach the regular retirement age. This can have various reasons: illness, extreme stress at work, low qualifications or the unsuccessful search for a job in old age. Deutsche Rentenversicherung recorded 1.36 million new entries into retirement in 2019 - the entries not only include employees who have managed to work until retirement age, but also the unemployed, disability pensioners and other inactive people. Your pension is therefore often not very generous.

Due to the corona pandemic, one of these groups, that of the unemployed, has been growing again for a long time: There were more than a million long-term unemployed in Germany in March 2020, 45 percent more than in the same month last year. Long-term unemployed is anyone who has been registered as unemployed for more than twelve months. Statistics from the Federal Employment Agency show that 45 percent of those who end their long-term unemployment do not even come back to the labor market or to training, but remain without a job. They are considered to be unable to work or not available because, for example, they are currently sick. Five percent retire. Older people over 55 years of age in particular remain unemployed for a long time once they have lost their job. This can be due to health restrictions or employers' prejudices against older people, according to a study by the employment agency. Other risk groups are low-skilled people without a school leaving certificate or completed training, the severely disabled or single parents.

Disability pension is not a comfortable early retirement, but a risk of poverty

Others are permanently so ill that they can no longer work and have to apply for a disability pension. Those who work in physically demanding occupations such as construction or care are more often affected. The most common reasons for reduced earning capacity are mental illnesses, but cancer, muscle diseases or cardiovascular problems also prevent further work. You are fully incapacitated if you work less than three hours a day. A total of around 1.8 million men and women receive a disability pension, also known as an EM pension.

The average age at the start of a disability pension was 52.7 years on average in 2019. However, the notion that the EM pension equals comfortable early retirement is wrong, says Martin Brussig from the Institute for Work and Qualification in Duisburg. "The risk of poverty with a disability pension is very high," said the scientist. The EM pension in 2019 averaged 840 euros, but for women in West Germany, for example, only 761 euros. The federal government had recently improved the disability pension several times. That is not enough brusquely. He advocates doing more for prevention. The goal must be to reduce health problems in the workplace - so that anyone who wants can reach the regular retirement age in the job of their choice.