The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2011 provided that State pension age will increase to age 67 in 2021 and age 68 in 2028. The purpose of these changes is to make the pension system more sustainable in the context of increasing life expectancy. This has significant implications for future cost of State pension provision which is increasing by approximately €1 billion every 4 to 5 years.
Jobseeker’s payments are currently paid to eligible jobseekers aged 18 to 66 years subject to the person satisfying the general scheme conditions. Social Welfare legislation states that jobseeker payments may be made until the person reaches pensionable age. In this regard, the duration of jobseeker's payments will naturally adjust in line with increases in state pension age.
Jobseekers Benefit is normally paid for 9 months (234 days) for people with 260 or more PRSI contributions paid and for 6 months (156 days) for people with fewer than 260 PRSI contributions paid. Arrangements are in place to provide that jobseekers whose benefit expires in their 65th year can generally continue to be paid benefit up until pensionable age provided they satisfy the necessary contribution conditions.
I am also introducing a new jobseekers benefit for the self-employed later this year which I announced as part of Budget 2019. The Social Welfare Bill 2019 will provide for the necessary legislation required to introduce this new scheme which is progressing through the Houses of the Oireachtas. Once enacted, this scheme will also provide for the alignment of payment in line with increases in state pension age.
There is no statutory retirement age in the State, and the age at which employees retire is a matter for the contract of employment between them and their employers. While such a contract may have been entered into with a retirement age of 65, in the context of previous State pension arrangements, there is no legal impediment to the employer and employee agreeing to increase the employment duration, if both parties agree to do so.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.