A group of workers on a building site in Malaga. Migue Fernándéz
Number of workers aged 60 years old and over has doubled in Malaga province since 2012

Number of workers aged 60 years old and over has doubled in Malaga province since 2012

Demographics, tougher early retirement regulations and higher contribution requirements are lengthening the working lives of local residents, according to the latest data

Cristina Vallejo


Tuesday, 5 March 2024, 13:55


There are now almost 61,500 workers aged 60 and over signed up to the Social Security system in Malaga province, which includes the Costa del Sol. This is more than double the figure for 2012, when the affiliates numbered 29,150.

The starting date for measuring this rise is not chosen at random: it was the year from which the statistics available from Spain's Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration are based. Additionally, 2012 is the year prior to the start of the gradual increase in the retirement age. In that year, the legal retirement age entitling people to receive 100 per cent of their pension was 65 years; in 2013, 65 years and one month; and in 2027 it will have risen to 67 years for people who have contributed less than 38 years and six months (it remains at 65 years for longer periods of contribution).

The fact is that the number of workers, aged 60 and over, has increased by 110% in the last twelve years in the province. This is an increase that exceeds that of the country as a whole, where the rise is 88.5%, from 1.05 million in January 2012 to almost two million in January 2024. But there are other regions where the increase in the number of older workers has been greater: in Melilla and Ceuta the increase has been 185% and 154%, respectively. In Guadalajara, the increase in these older contributors was 143%. In Murcia, the rise was 130%; in Alicante and Las Palmas, more than 120%; in Albacete the increase was 117%; and in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 115%.

The Social Security statistics provide a slightly more detailed breakdown. Within the group under analysis, the one that has grown the most is the over-64s: data from last January shows that there are 11,905 people registered with Social Security in Malaga, a figure that is 2.6 times (160% higher) than twelve years ago, when the figure was 4,500. At the same time, the number of contributors aged between 60 and 64 in the province has increased by 100%, i.e. it has doubled, from 24,704 to 49,532.

In Spain as a whole, the number of workers aged between 60 and 64 has increased by 79% (from 905,604 to 1.6 million), while those who are still working after the age of 64 have grown by 146%, from almost 148,000 to nearly 364,500.

Demographics and legal changes

These increases are, at first glance, very large and important, but the numbers become even more relevant if we compare them with the dramatic change in the total number of Social Security affiliates. In Malaga, over the last twelve years, employment has risen by 35%, from 501,000 workers to almost 680,000 in January, i.e. it has risen three times less than employment among the over-60s. Meanwhile, in the country as a whole, the number of older people in employment has grown four times more than the working population as the national figures show that this group has risen by 21.5%, from almost 17 million to more than 20.6 million.

What is the reason for this sharp increase? Andrés González, from the communist CCOO trade union, lists several factors. Firstly, he explained that the 'baby-boom' generation, i.e. people born in the 1960s, are approaching retirement age. "This is why it is said that they will have such a hard time in terms of pensions between 2027 and 2050 … the retirement years of that generation.” To this must be added, González said, the migrants who arrived in Spain in the 2000s when they were between 30 and 50 years old and are now also approaching retirement age. And he highlighted the fact that the legislative changes that have taken place over the last decade have had an impact, albeit "minimal" in his eyes.

Extending working lives to get a higher pension

For the first time in history the increase in the effective retirement age has exceeded 65, as reported a few days ago by the Secretary of State for Social Security, Borja Corujo. The period of contribution required to access 100% of the pension has also been increased. And the reductions applied to early retirees have been tightened. David Conde, from the Malaga branch of the UGT trade union, pointed out that the increase in the number of over-60s on the labour market is due to the fact that people are increasingly extending their working lives in order to obtain a higher pension or not to suffer the penalties for shortening it.

Carlos Vidal-Meliá, professor of Social Security and Actuarial Science at the University of Valencia, said: "In addition to increasing the legal retirement age, access to early retirement has been tightened and there are incentives to continue working". By the latter he is referring to the bonus for each year contributed above the retirement age.

Conde also noted that the ageing of the population itself is also influencing the changes, which means that older workers are becoming increasingly more important in the total number of workers. The figures are indisputable: in Malaga, just more than 29,200 over-60s in 2012 accounted for 5.8% of the total number of workers, while the current 61,438 account for 9% of the 680,000 contributors. In Spain, in the same period, they have gone from representing 6.2% to 9.6%.

General trend in Europe

But Raymond Torres, director of the economics at the Funcas think-tank, explained that this is not a phenomenon exclusive to Malaga, or even to Spain, because it is a general trend in Europe. Although, he added, in Spain it has occurred in a more accentuated way in recent years. In Spain, the participation in the labour market of people aged 60 to 65 years is 57%, when in 2019 it was 47%, and in 2012, 38%. Spain has surpassed the European average (54%), France (41%) and Italy (47%) in this ratio, although it is still below Germany (67%). As for the population aged 65-69, their participation in the labour market has risen from 5.7% to 11%, which is still below the European average of 15%.

But is it good or bad to spend more and more years at work? Torres answers that this can contribute to economic growth and the sustainability of the pension system. But he also argues that the quality of life of people should be analysed, which will also differ according to the work they do, a factor that also influences their life expectancy.

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