"We have to find a way of life in old age that corresponds to our physical and mental strength"

Brigitte Miksa: In principle, it is. We are clearly rather successful as a species. More and more people are growing up in favorable conditions and can look forward to a long life - in good health, with encouraging educational prospects and in the hope of earning a reasonable income.

On the other hand, overpopulation is a real problem. In Africa and some Asian countries many people are still very poor.

So on the one hand an excess population poses challenges, on the other hand we are bemoaning the lack of new talent and the aging of our societies. Given that we are living in an age of globalization, is this not a contradiction in terms?

Miksa: It is indeed. And this is when we get talking about immigration. After all, immigration holds the prospect of balancing things out. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as all that - especially in Europe where the people willing to immigrate are not necessarily the ones we envisage when we think of possible solutions to the problems of economic productivity and a dwindling birth rate. We always tend to imagine that well-trained specialists and academics from all over the world are keen to come to our shores. The sad truth is that, for these people, we are not really the first choice.

So we may hope for targeted immigration, but even within Europe's borders we're unable to manage the availability of employment and education on the one hand and the need for labor on the other. Just think of the high levels of youth unemployment in Spain and Italy. In Germany, by contrast, we are desperate for trainees. In this respect we are still nothing more than a conglomeration of a great number of rather small countries.

So what would the solution be?

Miksa: Cross-border employment agencies would be a great idea - in some border regions they already exist on a small scale. We definitely have to promote readiness for a cultural shift in Europe. As regards achieving a genuine cultural mix, we really have not got very far. But at the same time we also need to make it more attractive for women to have children - we need to give them the feeling that having children isn't a huge challenge and enormous risk.

From a personal perspective living ever longer can only be a good thing. So where's the problem?

Miksa: Let me give you an example: In 2050, the 54 percent of the population that are in work (people aged 15 to 65) will need to support the 36 percent who are dependent, i.e. children and the elderly 1 . This constitutes a huge economic challenge. And in other countries the picture is quite similar.

An Allensbach study 2 shows that 52 percent of the German population expect things to change for the worse and are concerned about poverty in old age (55 percent) 3 : and yet most people simply cannot imagine the impact that an aging population will have on all areas of their lives and our society. The last thing we need is horror scenarios, but if we want to find solutions we need to have a real, vivid idea of the future. What will it be like when half of drivers are above the age of 80? Or when more and more people are using tricycles to get around? Do we have enough space for this? And will there be enough accessible housing? Should we perhaps make changes to building regulations to take this issue into account?

So it's not just about who'll pay for it all?

Miksa: Of course that's an important aspect. After all, savings often simply won't last long enough and so getting older has become a risk. But there is much more to it. Such a long lifespan needs to be filled with interesting activities. This is something we underestimate. The challenge is finding a way of life in old age that corresponds to our physical and mental strength.

When will you retire?

Miksa: On January 1, 2025 - at least that's the date the German pension insurance fund specifies in its annual missive. But what if I don't want to do that?

You don't want to retire? What would your ideal model look like?

Miksa: Ideally, from about the age of 60 I would like to move into a different kind of work that is more flexible and allows me more time off. Be it as compressed working times, reduced weekly hours or an annual working time account - this would be my ideal scenario, if possible based on working 60 percent. This would allow me to take on projects and contribute my experience, but also to benefit from more relaxation and leisure time. In that way work would still be enjoyable.

That sounds good. Why doesn't everyone do the same?

Miksa: So far the system doesn't provide for such a gradual retirement. But the time will come when pressures increase to such an extent that merely focusing on young talent is not enough. That'll be the time when we need employment models for older workers, but also for women and men wanting to take parental leave or having to care for their parents.

At this point in time I don't even know whether my career has already peaked or not. Am I still a "talent" or am I already one of the "oldies"? I don't really feel old yet...

What needs to happen to make 2012 a good year for you?

Miksa: I would like politicians to provide greater protection for private retirement provision. The tax on financial transactions that is currently being debated, for instance, will affect investments across the board - and this includes the money private individuals put by for their old age. This is something that people tend to overlook when discussing such measures.

We need an overview over both our statutory and our private retirement provision, so that we can at least get some idea of how much we'll be left with in our old age. We normally only "guess-timate" the pensions gap. However, we don't only need to know how to finance our income in old age, but what kind of income would be sufficient.

Addressing the challenges of demographic change in as extensive as possible a way is key. This includes reaching out to the public, using as many different media as possible, so that we all get a clearer, more vivid idea of what lies ahead, feel less insecure and start talking more about solutions rather than about problems.

Brigitte Miksa: "Most people simply cannot imagine the impact that an aging population will have on all areas of their lives and our society"

Brigitte Miksa is Head of International Pensions at Allianz Asset Management AG. Her department is responsible for research and publications on pension and retirement markets globally and for supporting the pension business strategy of Allianz in core markets. She is also Executive Editor of PROJECT M, an award-winning magazine on pension investment and retirement. 

1 UN population statistics (2011)

2 Old age and growing older - from the point of view of journalists and the general population (Alter und Älterwerden - aus der Sicht von Journalisten und der Bevölkerung). A comparative study of the Allensbach Institute for Public Opinion Research on behalf of the Robert Bosch Foundation. (2008)

3 Allensbach archive, IFD surveys, most recently 10084

As with all content published on this site, these statements are subject to our Forward Looking Statement disclaimer.
Link to the disclaimer

Michael Matern

Allianz SE
Tel. +49.89.3800-2960

Send e-mail