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Tuesday 11 December 2018

Why 85 is the new 65 in an ageing Irish workforce

Number of people working past traditional retirement age leaps by a third in five years

Pension concern: Corona Joyce of Age Action Ireland. Picture: Arthur Carron
Pension concern: Corona Joyce of Age Action Ireland. Picture: Arthur Carron

Alan O'Keeffe

Working past the traditional retirement age of 65 is becoming a growing trend in Ireland.

Almost 60,000 people aged 65 and over were listed as working in 2016, an increase of a third since 2011.

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More than 1,100 of the older workers were aged 85 or over, according to Central Statistics Office figures.

And some 2,100 people aged between 80 and 84 were listed as still working two years ago.

"More people are choosing to work longer, whether for social engagement and fulfilment or economic necessity," said Corona Joyce, of Age Action Ireland.

"Continuing or returning to work may be a critical source of income for older people, increasing their pre-retirement income to a level which meets their minimum essential standard of living," she said.

Age Action's helpline frequently receives calls from individuals wishing to continue working but who are unable to due to mandatory retirement clauses, she said.

Older jobseekers or those seeking to retrain or remain with their employer can encounter ageism, she added.

Ms Joyce said further investigation of training opportunities such as Active Labour Market Programmes is needed to examine the prospect of reskilling and upskilling for over-55s, and whether they can get real jobs afterwards.

"Even with the retirement age due to rise to 68 by 2020, there is a legitimate question about the sustainability of the State pension system," she said.

"We need solutions to support older people who want to continue working but fall victim to ageism and discriminatory mandatory retirement.

"Recent guidance on longer working lives from the Workplace Relations Commission and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is very welcome.

"A more flexible approach to retirement ages is needed in the context of living longer and increasing pension ages," added Ms Joyce, senior policy officer with Age Action.

Jimmy Sheehan, a director of Contracting Plus, a company which helps older people arrange work contracts, said experienced and talented older workers are a valuable cohort who could contribute much to firms if they decide to work on a contract basis after normal retirement age.

Skilled employees in sectors like finance, IT, logistics and project management can transition seamlessly into professional contracting after they retire.

Many people approaching retirement relish the challenge of seeking new pastures through contract work, he said. "Some senior personnel are forced out at a given retirement age. Others have doubts about how they will cope with retirement.

"Some feel they will miss out on the work routine and what they see as a purposeful role, while others worry about their pension pot and how long it may last," he said.

"Industry is also waking up to the valuable resource an experienced executive represents, and recruitment agencies actively approach senior personnel on their consultancy availability, ahead of retirement," he said.

"There is no government policy to incentivise working longer, despite the skills shortages and the difficulties in providing for an ageing population in retirement.

"Creative government policy might be to let individuals defer their State pension, continue working, and get a tax credit equal to the pension value instead," he said.

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