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Tuesday, Oct 7, 2014

World

Belgian parties agree to raise state pension age to 67

Reuters | Tuesday, Oct 7, 2014

BRUSSELS - Belgian parties negotiating the formation of a new coalition government agreed on Tuesday to raise the state pension age to 67 from 65 as part of broader plans to bring the national budget under control.

The four centre-right parties, which have been in coalition talks since July, decided that any government they form should hike the pension age to 66 in 2025 and to 67 in 2030, a spokesman for one of the lead negotiators said.

Belgian elections were held in May and it often takes months of detailed discussions before a government can take office.

The potential coalition partners want to balance the public sector budget by 2018 and cut Belgium's debt, currently among the highest in the euro zone at about 100 per cent of gross domestic product.

There was no immediate reaction from Belgian unions or centre-left parties to the move to lift the age of retirement. The socialist-linked FGTB/ABVV trade union federation last week voiced its firm opposition to any rise.

If the measure is adopted, Belgium would join a long line of EU countries that have increased the official retirement age in the wake of the sovereign debt crisis as they struggle to tame deficits.

Britain, Germany, Greece and Spain have agreed to raise their retirement ages to 67 in the coming years, while Ireland aims to increase the retirement age to 68 from 2028. Britain could do the same in the mid-2030s.

Portugal, which received an EU bailout, has hiked the pensionable age there to 66.

Belgium's previous government did not change the age of retirement, but sought to increase the average age at which people do retire, which, at 59.6 years for men and 58.7 years for women in 2012, was far below the OECD average of 64.2 for men and 63.1 for women.

Neighbouring France has stopped short of raising the statutory retirement age of 62, fearing widespread public opposition.

Belgium's negotiating parties have also agreed to limit the age at which laid-off workers can claim early retirement and make it easier for pensioners to earn extra money.

They also plan a separate rule for the police, who have protested against a proposal to raise their pension age to 62 from 58.

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