Bolivia: Retirement age lowered, expectations raised

Issue 

On December 10, surrounded by union leaders and foreign dignitaries, President Evo Morales announced Bolivia’s new pension law at the headquarters of the Bolivian Workers Central (COB), the country’s militant national trade union federation.

The unprecedented and highly symbolic event was the result of a four-year negotiating process, during which the COB agreed to suspend its mobilisation for higher wages in exchange for comprehensive pension reform.

The new law nationalises Bolivia’s private pension funds, guarantees universal retirement benefits for participants, and makes it easier for workers to access them. The COB and the government have called it “revolutionary” and “historic”.

The new pension law will provide guaranteed benefits and allow workers to retire sooner: men at 58 (instead of 60), and most women (those who have three or more living children) at 55. Miners will be able to retire at 56, or as early as 51 with longevity.

However, with an average life expectancy of 62 for Bolivian men and 65 for women, the government notes, the current age criterion virtually guarantees no retirement, especially for workers performing arduous manual labor. Also, it excludes informal workers, who make up 60% majority of Bolivia’s economically active population.

[Abridged from www.NACLA.org .]