The cost of living keeps going up. Labour has budgetted carefully to allow a sustainable €5 or more increase in the state pension and in other social protection payments, every year for the next five years. We will keep the State Pension age at 66, and we will benchmark payments against the real cost of living.
Labour will maintain the State Pension age at 66, as older workers and the economy are not yet ready for longer working lives. Many workers now reaching the age of 66 have already made 45 years of social insurance contributions, and many are affected by mandatory retirement at the age of 65. We are living longer, and we do need to prepare for longer working lives, but we have a sufficient surplus in the Social Insurance Fund that we can afford to continue to provide the State Pension from age 66 onwards, while we make preparations for population ageing that are sustainable and equitable.
Labour will provide an incentive for employers to end compulsory retirement at 65 in employment contracts, and allow people to work until the State Pension age or longer. For the lifetime of the next government, employers will not have to pay employers’ PRSI for workers aged 65 or over.
Labour will link social protection payments to the cost of living, including pensions, based on a new national cost of living index, linked to the real cost of living on a modest but sufficient income. The level of increase should be recommended to the Minister by an independent group, to remove the politics from annual increases. We will address anomalies faced by pensioners who worked in commercial semi-states.
Labour will immediately restore full weekly social protection payments to those under the age of 25.
Labour will take comprehensive steps to ensure that the incomes of lone parents are sufficient.
Labour will put social insurance benefits for the self-employed on a sustainable footing. The Government has, rightly, extended more social protections to the self-employed, but it has not provided sustainable funding for this. Labour will review the projected costs and reform social insurance contributions so that people who are self-employed can have confidence that benefits will be there when they need them.
Labour will initiate the process of aligning the tax and welfare systems. This has the potential to allow innovative policies that will make it easier for people to return to work while still relying on some welfare payments. It will also assist those returning to work who may have a disability, large families or other ongoing need for social protection.