In-depth | Workers' rights

Early retirement among civil servants: Part of the reform?

By - 29.03.2021

Experts push the idea of downsizing state administration.

It has already been over a year since the Law on Public Officials was adopted, which regulates the legal relationship between the state and its employees, including central and local government institutions’ employees who are part of the civil service.

Article 63 of the Law allows early retirement for civil servants.

It’s been more than half a year since the adoption of the Regulation on dismissal and early retirement from civil service, which supplements the law and also establishes and clarifies the procedures that need to be followed by civil servants in order to retire before the legal age of 65.

The possibility of early retirement is valid only for civil servants over 63 years old, in one of two possible ways: Through a personal request or by a decision from the institution where the servant works. In both cases, the law stipulates that civil servants who retire early receive 70% of their salary until the age of 65.

Kosovo has the highest number of employees in the public sector compared to other countries in the region and beyond.

Out of more than 82,000 employees of budgetary organizations  i.e., those funded by the state budget — there are over 22,000 civil servants. Nearly 8% of them meet the legal requirement for early retirement, meaning they are over 63 years old.

The average age of Kosovo civil servants is 47.5 years, whereas employees in municipalities have a higher average age.

How much would it cost the state?

For many years now, Kosovo’s state administration has been undergoing a reformation process that aims, among other things, to prevent political intervention and nepotism in civil service, to create adequate recruitment policies, to add accountability mechanisms, as well as to establish suitable mechanisms for performance assessment.

The GAP Institute has published a report on early retirement among civil servants, which asserts that it should be included as part of the reform in order to reduce employees in the administration as it currently employs a considerable number of people. According to the report, Kosovo has the highest number of employees in the public sector compared to other countries in the region and beyond, constituting over 30% of all working individuals in the country.

“The average for the Balkan countries is 27.2%, in European Union countries it is 23.7%, while the average employment in the public sector in the OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] countries is 21.1%,” GAP experts say.

According to the report, neither the department for civil service administration within the Ministry of Internal Affairs, nor the treasury unit of the Ministry of Finance possess data from previous years regarding the existence of requests for early retirement by initiative of the employees, or if there were cases in which institutions initiated procedures for the early retirement of their employees.

According to Florent Spahija from the Kosovo Democratic Institute, the option of early retirement can also be used for health reasons. Photo from the K2.0 archive.

The government stipulates that the budgetary expenses for early retirement can be covered by the budget of the department of civil service administration. According to the GAP report, this suggests that the government does not expect a lot of requests for early retirement, not from their employees, nor from the institutions where they work.

The report also offers a model of the costs that takes into account various degrees of early retirement among civil servants depending on the introduction, or lack thereof, of a governmental strategy related to it.

“If all civil servants over the age of 63 retire early 24 months before their legal retirement age, it would cost the Kosovo budget 7 million euros,” the report says.

The report also says that if the government decides to reduce the early retirement age for three more years, down to 60, then that would cost the state budget 10 million euros.

To support the proposal for the inclusion of a reduction of civil servants within the state administration reform, according to GAP, the Kosovo government needs to encourage self-initiated early retirement among servants by lowering the retirement age or even by offering them a full salary until the age of 65.

One way to bring early retirement into the service of reform is by organizing it so that vacant positions are not filled by other servants. However, as the report states, this would be virtually impossible for municipalities considering that the number of civil servants older than 60 is high and not replacing them would leave behind a vacuum in municipal services.

What do the experts say?

Florent Spahija, legal adviser at the Kosovo Democratic Institute (KDI), says that this legal option can be used for other purposes as well, for example by civil servants who want to retire for health reasons. “Someone might have started working [at an] early [age] and is exhausted from work],” he says.

Naser Shamolli, former director of the legal department at the Ministry of Public Administration and former head of the working group for drafting the legal package of the public administration reform — is now part of the Group for Legal and Political Studies. He underlines that current legal provisions are not applied among teachers, police officers and other employees and functionaries who are paid by the state but are not part of civil service. There have been requests for early retirement from these categories for health reasons.

Naser Shamolli from the Group for Legal and Political Studies says that the procedure for early retirement takes into account both employees and superiors. Photo: Agan Kosumi K2.0.

To Spahija, the only drawback of early retirement is that “we could lose excellent experts” two years early, and he emphasizes that leaving it to civil servants to decide whether they want to opt for this possibility shows that “the law goes hand in hand with the rights of workers.”

However, Shamolli dismisses the possible loss of experts who may want to retire early. “A superior is allowed to refuse the request,” he says, explaining that if an institution decides that a civil servant needs to continue working for a certain reason, it can block the employee’s early retirement.

“A civil servant can also appeal, but realistically they will lose [the case],” he says, “because the law specifies the two avenues of early retirement.”

How does the procedure go?

It then goes back to the human resources unit which, after receiving the opinion of the direct supervisor of the employee in question, addresses the request to the highest administrative leader of the institution, who has 30 days to approve or reject the request. However, if the request is rejected, the civil servant has the right to appeal to the Independent Oversight Board of the Kosovo Civil Service (IOBCSK), the body that has the final say on whether the rejection is justified.

But the institution itself can also retire its employees if they meet the legal age requirement. When the institution has to reduce the staff, reorganize, or even in cases when it joins another institution or even closes altogether, then it is given the right to propose early retirement for its civil servants. And if they do not like the decision of the employer to retire them early, they can complain to the IOBCSK, where there is no deadline for how long the review can last.

The newly formed Kurti 2 government has reduced the number of ministries from 16 to 15, which means there may be staff reductions. Also, some ministries have been merged and some others have been divided, which in practice means that there will be reorganizations.

In the session where the new government was voted in on March 22, Prime Minister Albin Kurti stressed that he will integrate early retirement into the Kosovo Police, while it is not yet known whether the government will use this legal opportunity for civil servants.

Feature image: Agan Kosumi / K2.0.

This article was produced as part of the project ‘’Citizens – engage!’’ with the financial support of the European Union Office in Kosovo and implemented by Kosovo 2.0 in partnership with GAP Institute. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Kosovo 2.0 and GAP Institute and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.