Once again, Minister Escrivá’s reflections aloud have caused a logical uproar. The minister’s ability to boycott himself and the government of which he is a member is astonishing.
His words, generating alarm about the future of pensions, still resonate a few hours after closing an important and complex agreement with trade unions and employers, which, among other things, aims to generate certainty about the future of the public Social Security system. The minister has returned to self-harm this week, on the eve of the debate in Congress of the bill that embodies this important agreement.
I am among the social misfits who still believe that politics is above all pedagogy, but a minister or anyone who holds a public or collective representation should be clear that he is not a poet and his verse is not free. His “pedagogical” reflections must be placed in the terrain of politics, which is different from that occupied by an analyst or a poet.
Hopefully these “accidents” of Escrivá’s will serve to revalue the professionalism of politics. We have become so accustomed to denigrating and undervaluing it that we have forgotten that politics is an activity that, like all other activities, requires a certain professionalism. Those who, from the populist technocracy, spend their days shooting at the “politician” tend to overlook this.
In any case, this is an open debate, which it would be a mistake to ignore and even more so to do it with traps. There are those who, taking the bait, have already come to Escrivá’s defence, arguing that the data support his discourse. Despite the fact that the minister himself has “reinterpreted” himself on Twitter.
Escrivá states a true fact: in Spain the employment rate of people over 55 is low, especially when compared to the European Union average. For the minister, the fundamental factor that explains this differential reality is cultural. Although he has not specified exactly what he means by cultural.
A Based on these data, some propose a tricky syllogism that leads them to propose an increase in the legal retirement age, beyond the current one. A measure that the minister himself, in one of his usual clarifications and rectifications, has ruled out. And the entire coalition government has rejected it.
Once again, based on true data, misleading conclusions are being drawn. The fact that Spain has a lower employment rate in the over-55 age group than the European Union average has little to do with cultural factors. It does have to do with a model of competitiveness based above all on reducing labour costs at any price and legislation that promotes and economically incentivises the dismissal of senior citizens and their replacement by younger people at a lower cost.
We have seen this recently with the massive redundancies in the financial sector. In the same week that Minister Escrivá insisted on penalizing early retirement and encouraging delayed retirement, in order to bring the real retirement age closer to the legal age, large financial institutions were proposing the dismissal and early retirement of people over 55 years old. At the same time, Minister Calviño launched moral reprimands to these banks to change their behaviour.
This is a textbook case of how those who sponsor and promote policies in a certain direction then complain about the consequences they cause and look to third parties to take responsibility for their actions.
The different labour reforms have been facilitating, more and more, an uncaused dismissal that in practice has become free and paid, although each time with a lower and lower compensation. The last step, taken by the PP reform of 2012, has made prior administrative authorization disappear in the ERE, which favors business adjustments by way of collective dismissals. Precarious subcontracting has been promoted, facilitating the dismissal of senior staff of large companies and the outsourcing of their work to subcontractors with people with a much lower salary. The primacy of the company agreement over the sectoral agreement has been regulated, which in many cases is serving to outsource production, costs and risks.
In short, our labour legislation is increasingly encouraging cost-cutting strategies based on the dismissal of older workers. An action which, in the case of listed companies, itsThe company’s value on the stock markets and, in turn, the incentives paid to its managers.
If we want to promote voluntary continuity of employment among older people, there is an opportunity now. The reform of labour legislation should discourage these business practices. What cannot be done is to promote the dismissal of seniors and their replacement by cheaper young people and then complain about the low employment rate at those ages and, in the end, propose penalising their access to retirement.
There is another sociological factor to take into account: the type of work and the personal conditions in which people reach retirement age are determining factors in the decisions they take. Not all working lives and not all jobs are the same, which is why they cannot be treated by the law with a Fordist mentality and a regulation that seeks to standardise what is diverse.
Fortunately, our Social Security system has been incorporating, through social concertation agreements, important levels of flexibility in access to retirement.
We can always try to improve incentives to voluntarily extend the retirement age, but I fear that this will not substantially change people’s decisions.
For those who reach retirement age exhausted or burnt out, there is no incentive to continue working. And for those who are lucky enough to have jobs that motivate them, economic incentives are not fundamental in their decision to continue working or not. What is crucial is to put an end to the legal incentives that facilitate and promote the business strategy of reducing costs by making older people redundant.
So beware, lest, camouflaged among Escrivá’s political stumbles, they sneak in a debate in which, based on accurate data, they try to reach misleading conclusions. Making it difficult for seniors, who have been made redundant to reduce labour costs, to access retirement would be as much as penalising the victims twice over. And that has a name.