Pension age remains at 66, carers included in new reforms

The State pension age will remain at 66 and people will be offered the choice to work until 70 in return for higher payments.

Long-term carers will also be provided with a pension for the first time.

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys has announced a series of landmark reforms to the State Pension system in Ireland.

The measures, which were approved by Cabinet, are in response to the recommendations from Pensions Commission.

The set of reforms agreed include:

  • maintaining the State Pension age at 66 and introducing a new flexible pension age model
  • from January 2024, people will have the option to continue working up until the age of 70 in return for a higher pension
  • as recommended by the Pensions Commission, move fully to a ‘Total Contributions Approach’ for calculation of individual pensions entitlements on a phased basis over 10 years starting in January 2024
  • Enhanced State Pension provision for long-term carers to be introduced from January 2024. This will mean, for the first time, people who have to give up work over a long duration to look after a loved one will have their time spent caring recognised in the pension system’
  • the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment will introduce measures that allow, but do not compel, an employee to stay in employment until the State Pension age
  • workers will be provided with access to a PRSI contribution statement service each year in a manner that enables them to understand their entitlements
  • the long-term sustainability of the State Pension system will be addressed through gradual, incremental increases in social insurance rates over time
  • the level and rate of increase in social insurance rates will be determined on a structured basis every 5 years informed by the outcome of a statutory actuarial review
  • a commitment to explore the design of a scheme that would modify the current Benefit Payment for 65-year-olds to provide a benefit payment for people who, following a long working life, 40 years or more, are not in a position to remain working in their early 60s

Following the Cabinet meeting, Minister Humphreys said: “The measures agreed by Cabinet today represent the biggest ever structural reform of the Irish State Pension System.

“We know that people are living longer and healthier lives which is hugely positive. At the same time, everybody’s job and circumstances are different so we need to move away from a ‘one size fits all approach to the pension age.

“That is why from 2024, Ireland will move to a new ‘flexible pension age’ model, similar to the systems in place in a number of other EU countries.

“Under this new model, people will continue to be able to retire and draw their pension at 66 exactly as they can today. In addition, for the first time, people will now be given the choice to continue working beyond 66 in order to receive a higher pension payment.

“This new system will put the power in people’s hands and give them the choice in terms of what best suits their own circumstances.”

Minister Humphreys continued: “I’m pleased too that Government has agreed to a number of other really important proposals.

“Over the next ten years, as recommended by the Pensions Commission, we will move to a Total Contributions Approach, ensuring that people’s pension rates are based on the number of years they have worked and paid contributions.

“This will be a crucial step in ensuring our State Pension System is sustainable into the future and will help deliver a more fair and equitable system for our citizens.

“As part of the move to the Total Contributions Approach, we will provide a pension to long-term carers from 2024.

“Given the sacrifice that carers make and the contribution they make to society, I believe it is only appropriate that we should enable them to access the State pension and I am very pleased to get government support for this proposal.

“I am pleased that Government also supported my proposal to explore the introduction of support for people who for various reasons cannot continue working into their early 60s. These proposals will be worked on over the coming months and will be modelled on the Benefit Payment for 65-year-olds that I introduced following my appointment as Minister for Social Protection.”

Minister Humphreys continued: “Thankfully due to the strong performance of our economy and record employment, the social insurance fund is expected to have a surplus at the end of this year.

“At the same time, we do need to plan for the future. Accordingly, action is needed to sustain the system.

“That is why Government have today agreed to review social insurance rates in a structured manner. This will be done every 5 years with the level and rate of increase based on the outcome of a statutory actuarial review.”

Minister Humphreys concluded: “The State Pension system is extremely effective at ensuring that our pensioners do not experience poverty. The decisions taken by Government today will ensure that this remains the case for both current pensioners and today’s young workers – tomorrow’s pensioners.

“I would like to thank the Chair of the Pensions Commission, Ms Josephine Feehily and all of the Commission members for producing the report that set out the evidence-based options and recommendations for reform.”

Under the proposed flexible model, those working beyond 66 would receive higher rates of pension payment.

The weekly State pension would increase from €253 for 66-year-olds to €266 for 67-year-olds; €281 for 68-year-olds; €297 for 69-year-olds; and €315 for 70-year-olds – a combined 24% increase.

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