The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has described Government policy on raising the qualifying age for the state pension as "wholly unacceptable".

General Secretary Patricia King said the plan to raise the state pension qualifying age to 67 from January 2021, and to 68 in 2028 had been identified as "a matter of grave concern" as far back as 2011 when it was first proposed - and that Congress had raised it consistently since then with the Taoiseach and other Government ministers. 

However, Ms King said that instead of heeding union warnings to pause an increase in the pension qualifying age, the Government had proceeded with strategies that were "completely imprudent".

She cited the Government decision to award pension and PRSI benefits to around 350,000 self-employed at a contribution rate of just 4% to receive 93% of benefit entitlements - while direct employees and their employers were liable to pay contributions totalling up to 14.95%

Congress estimates the 4% self-employed contribution rate would only cover 24% of the benefit cost to the state, and that the move would cost the exchequer up to €413 million by 2025, resulting in depletion of the Social Insurance Fund.

Ms King accused the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty of choosing to ignore the Government Tax Strategy Group, which had recommended that self-employed people should pay a proportionate contribution of 12% towards their pension and other social welfare benefits.

Ms King said Congress had also highlighted concerns about the issue of "bogus self-employment" where some employers misclassify workers as self-employed to reduce their liability for PRSI payments.

Congress claims this practice has deprived the State's Social Insurance Fund of up to €165 million between 2016 and 2018 - and described remedial measures proposed by the Government as "entirely inadequate".

Ms King also asserted that supports to low paying employers had cost the state over €723 million last year - a situation which could be rectified if the Government strengthened laws on current collective bargaining provisions.