Germany, as Europe’s top economy, might be seen as the land of plenty, but its senior citizens are increasingly being forced to take a part-time job in their twilight years just to make ends meet.
With more inhabitants over the age of 65 than any of its European partners, Germany’s senior citizens are having to resort to jobs such as a caretaker, animal watcher or babysitting to top up their pensions.
Notices such as: “Still spritely pensioner, in good physical and intellectual shape, seeks work paying at least 400 euros [US$536] a month. Good knowledge of computers,” are common on specialist sites posting job adverts.
Such sites tend to have a column dedicated to pensioners listing so-called “mini-jobs” targeting those within the country’s retired population of 20 million in need of boosting their incomes.
“Two or three times a week I deliver newspapers,” said 69-year-old Norbert Mack, who lives in Sindlingen, a western suburb in the city of Frankfurt.
“Mostly they are free papers with advertising which arrive around midday, so you then need two or three hours to deliver a pile of 200 to 300 papers,” he said.
“I do my round in the area with a shopping trolley. After that, I’m tired and I need to nap for one or two hours at home,” said Mack, who used to be employed in industrial machine construction.
The job earns him about 180 euros every month which supplements his 1,500-euro pension which he and his ill wife live on.
“Our only little pleasures are an old car, a small allotment where we spend the holidays and of course, my dog,” said Mack, whose hobby is training German shepherd dogs.
Initially created in 2003 by the Social Democratic government of then-German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to fight unemployment, these low-paid “mini-jobs,” which are taxed at lower rates, proved a hit among the over-65 crowd.
And about 11 percent of people who hold down “mini-jobs” are in this age category, according to the central office which oversees this type of work.
“Pensioners regularly ask us for work,” said Walter Ofer, from an association helping pensioners, adding that as well as senior citizens who work to top up their pensions, many women took jobs as as cleaners off the books.
At 72, Gerda Hafermalz, who used to be employed in customer service, promotes Swiss cheeses in supermarkets throughout the eastern region of Erfurt.
“Of course, it was imperative for me to find this work. Either I sat crying over my fate or I took my destiny in my hands,” said the divorcee, who describes herself as “tough.”
“My pension gives me 880 euros a month and there’s 375 of it that goes on my rent. Without the money my job gives me I could survive, but not live,” she said.
Germany has seen the number of pensioners taking jobs to top up their income increase by more than 58 percent between 2000 and last year, according to the labor ministry. In 2000 they numbered about 417,000, rising to 661,000 last year.
According to Eurostat, Germany has the most inhabitants over the age of 65 in Europe, representing 20.6 percent of its population.
The retirement age is due to gradually go up from 65 to 67 years following a reform approved in 2007.