Wednesday 21 August 2019

Raising retirement age won't work for majority

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Stock image


There used to be a popular bumper sticker that declared: "I didn't ask to be old, I was drafted."

Now it would appear that the Government is intent on making sure that a job for life means pretty much that.

The revelation that the retirement age for all public servants is to be extended by one year to 66 speaks to economic necessity, in that our pensions bill is €7.2bn.

Whatever about having the option to stay in employment, many would be concerned if we went from having a workforce, to having people being forced to work. In some respects, the notion seems counter-intuitive, in that modern employment trends dictate that one must prepare for several twists and turns on a career path.

So while the Government may propose, it is the market place that disposes. To presume that a person will still be in the same job by the age of 66, unless they are in the public service, is a bit of a reach.

We got a hint of a move towards extending the age when someone could claim a pension recently, when the Economic and Social Research Institute suggested that people might not actually get the State pension until they reach the age of 70.

Among the arguments for this was that it would balance a fall in the workforce with the growing number of pensioners. It would also address projected increase in life expectancy. It might even counteract a fall in the workforce and the rise in the number of pensioners.

For, as things stand, the number of people forced to retire at 65 years of age - but who are not entitled to a pension until 66 - is growing rapidly.

The abolition of compulsory retirement at 65 may well suit some, and will definitely tick a box for the Government. But compelling people to work until they are 66 raises quality-of-life issues.

Since 2013, the minimum retirement age for the State pension scheme is 66. It will rise to 68 in 2028.

It used to be said that in later life most good things happen very slowly; the rise and rise of the retirement age seems to have occurred with indecent haste.

Hidden heroes deserve everyone's recognition

The news that 87pc of the population believes they are healthy, according to Census 2016, is positive. But there is another hidden story here which shows how age plays a huge part in how people feel. Unsurprisingly, 79pc of 15 to 19-year-olds are in very good health, but as the years go on the number is 58.6pc for those aged 40 to 44, and only 31.3pc of the 65 to 69 age group.

The census also conceals a story of quiet heroism, with thousands of children under the age of 15 being carers.

A hero can be defined as someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself and Ireland can boast 16,926 of them, according to the Central Statistics Office. Combined, they provide an extraordinary 6,608,515 hours of unpaid help per week in this country, which is an average of 39 hours per carer. This adds up to more than 343 million hours of unpaid care a year.

Through the years we have cringed seeing national leaders taking plaudits for doing the State some service. What carers do every day - quietly, unceremoniously and without recognition - is a priceless service.

And there is one thing for certain, at some time in our lives we will all need a carer. Given the scale of their contribution, they should never be taken for granted.

Irish Independent

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