Increasing the Official Age of Retirement

Heated debate on Age of Retirement

There is quite a heated debate going on here in Australia concerning a possible government proposal to increase the official age people should retire from the workforce. The government’s concern is that too many people are living well past the age at which they cease paid employment and are using welfare payments to keep them from thereon. It is not sustainable, they say, and most people probably know this to be the case. But we are not all ruled by logic. The emotional aspects raised here need to be considered. “I’ve paid my taxes all my life, why shouldn’t I now be supported by an old age pension?” is a common cry. Moreover, it is valid cry. Why shouldn’t we?

We are all living a lot longer.

Can we afford it?

The answer is that the taxes we’ve paid over, say, forty-five or even fifty years of life could well fall short of what is needed to keep us in an aged pension for the next twenty-five or thirty years. For that is how long people are living. When the age pension came in around a hundred years ago most people died either before they were due for that pension or within two or three years of receiving it. They were dead and gone by their early or middle sixties. Now people are living well into their eighties. Moreover, this longevity is expected to increase with people dying in their nineties. So it is easy to see that what we’ve paid in taxes over our working life might well fall short of what is needed to keep us from the time we retire to the time we go to our graves.

No Sudden Increase

The government does not intend to suddenly put the pension up by five years. No, rather it would be implemented in stages. It might take four or five years to reach that seventy years age mark. But there is something here which is not considered. Leastways, it does not seem to be considered. It is this:

Are people in retirement really burdens on society?

Who really does contribute to our society?

When does a person cease to contribute to the welfare of our community? Is it when they stop earning a living? Or is it when they cease undertaking tasks which are of benefit to the community at large? We know that just prior to the 2000 Olympic Games held here in Sydney, Australia, thousands of retiree volunteers stepped up to allow the games to happen relatively cheaply compared with the costs which would have been involved had they not done so. All manner of tasks were gladly undertaken, saving the Australian Taxpayers probably tens of millions of dollars.

What about the RFS, the SES and others?

If this were a one-off as far as volunteers helping the taxpayer with costs it could be discounted. But this country is filled with volunteer organizations and agencies. The Rural Fire Service frequently has thousands of volunteers out fighting bush fires. The Rural Fire Service volunteers far outnumber their professionally paid counterparts. They risk their lives, take days off work – often forfeiting their pay if they are still working. But a great many of them are retirees, men in their late fifties and sixties, even seventies, putting themselves on the line and doing it for no money.

The same applies to our State Emergency Services, the SES. They’re out there in the storms and floods, often risking their lives to help others and, like the volunteer fire fighters, are often men who have retired from the paid workforce.

So who’s helping the Public Purse?

So where does this volunteering end, where do we draw a line and say “This is helping the community save the ‘Public Purse’ and where does it not? If you take a look at many of the Service organizations such as Rotary, Lions, Masons and many others today you will find that there are a great percentage of retirees in those groups. They work every bit as hard as those who are still earning a living to make life better through the various causes. They raise money. They raise a lot of money, often for causes that are overlooked or ignored by governments.

My wife is a member of the Country Women’s Association and has been for around a quarter of a century. The CWA raises money for charity. The CWA ladies work for no pay. As do the VIEW Clubs, raising money for the Smith Family – another charitable agency. They, too, are all volunteers who receive no payment for their efforts.

What about the indirect ways volunteers help?

Then there are the off-shoots who, on the face of it, don’t raise money directly for charity but do so in indirect ways. One such organization is the Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association (ASCCA) This organization’s volunteers teach retirees computer skills. The people who learn these skills, as often as not, use them to help their own volunteer groups raise money for charity. Thus, indirectly, just about any volunteer group who contributes to the common weal is good news. They are not a burden. They could be more likened to ‘wind beneath the wings’ of many of societies unfulfilled needs.

Who deserves government support?

The argument I put forward is this: Everyone who contributes to the welfare of others, whether they are paid for their work or whether they are volunteers should be included as being worthy of being supported by government. They should not be disparaged as ‘free loaders’ or a burden upon society. A person might retire at, say, fifty-five, have a little superannuation coming in as a regular annuity, and still be entitled to a part or full time pension, and be well deserving of it. Such a person might go on – and a great many do – undertaking volunteer unpaid work for the next twenty-five years. They may not grow too old and incapacitated until the last few months, or even days, of their lives. They are not a burden for twenty-five years. They are an asset.

Gradual Retirement

I recall reading many years ago that some of the European countries had a really admirable system as far as people getting towards the retiring age. What was done was that, around five years before a person was due for retirement, their working week would be gradually decreased. At say, sixty-one, they’d be dropped to a four-day working week. After a year or two later this would drop to a three-day working week, then two. This would enable the upcoming retiree to gradually reduce their work load and prepare for retirement. The increasing free time would enable them to find alternative things to do with their lives. There would then be no ‘sudden break.’ They’d have time to find meaningful lives after their days of paid work were over. To me, this is a splendid system.

Why won’t employers hire older workers?

Okay, I am not against an increase in the age at which workers retire from the paid workforce. For me it is academic. I’m already retired and have been since 1995 – eighteen years in retirement and loving it. But when I took voluntary redundancy from a job I hated in that year I tried repeatedly to obtain further work. I genuinely wanted to work – but in a field I felt I could contribute best and also like what I was doing. I applied for well over a hundred positions. I had about a dozen replies to my applications. I had three interviews; and made the short list twice. Each time I was told I told – tactfully – that I was too old. At fifty-nine I was too old?

At that time I’d had forty-four years in the workforce across a wide selection of jobs. I was an experienced person. I thought of myself as very employable with much to offer employers. They thought differently. So, the way I see it, if I – who had been employed in one or two of the most sought after jobs there are – could not obtain work at fifty-nine, what chance the majority? Pretty slim, I’d say.

Who has the human relationship skills and worldly wisdom?

The point overlooked by so many employers is that they do not take into consideration the human relationship-type skills and wisdom of so many older workers. These are the stable workers. These are the men and women who have proved themselves as reliable and resourceful. If I were an employer I would not hesitate to hire older people to work for me. I would prefer them, in fact. Unfortunately, there are many who are in the position to hire and fire who do not like to employ people older than themselves. Whether it is a sense of intimidation, or that they’re might not know as much as these oldsters could well be part of it.

One reason for rejection of older workers.

When I re-joined the Australian Public Service in 1978, after spending a year as an Antarctic expeditioner, I found that I was overlooked for promotion year after year. I was forty-one when I joined them. I was promoted only twice in seventeen years. At that time I was informed by many others who came into that organization late, e.g. over forty, that we could hardly be expected to be promoted when those on the ‘promotions selection committees’ were usually young enough to be our sons or daughters. I expect such an attitude still prevails. People who are able to promote people worry, I suspect, they might be overtaken by those oldsters they have promoted.

Most jobs today can be handled by older workers.

We know there are jobs suitable only for the young. We know there is work where the physical requirements are such that only those, say, under thirty or thirty-five have the necessary physical attributes. But for the bulk of work today, age is not relevant. Older people can not only handle it, they can, with appropriate training, probably handle it as well or better than those who are still young.

So, my conclusion is that, yes, the age of retirement should be gradually increased until at least seventy. People are still active and fit at seventy – or they should be. The provisos are that their working week should be gradually reduced to four days, then three, until seventy, thus enabling them to go smoothly into retirement. Most importantly, they should not be regarded as a burden on society as is so commonly the case today. For the non-paid retiree makes up the bulk of the volunteers in this country of ours and probably will do so for far, far into the future. They save the Taxpayer countless millions of dollars, a point that should never be forgotten.

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Comments 15 comments

Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 3 years ago from California Gold Country

It is a dilemma, but it is logical to think the retirement age should be moved forward, many people are healthy and perfectly capable at older ages, these days. The funds will not last if life expectancies keep getting longer. The gradual retirement you mention seems to be a good idea. It is a shame that some who would rather not quit working on a regular basis, are pushed out.

Your point about volunteers is also very valid. I live in a small town with a lot of retirees who have not retired from life. I think our community would be in dire straits if all of the volunteers suddenly "retired".

Well thought out article.


CWanamaker profile image

CWanamaker 3 years ago from Arizona

Great article. I also think that the gradual retirement is good idea as well. Alternatively, perhaps a tiered retirement system based upoj your job classifications, length of service, etc would work too. This is a tough topic but the reality of it is that it has to be dealt with one way or another. People are living a lot longer these days.


annart profile image

annart 3 years ago from SW England

This is also relevant to Britain, probably around the world actually. I reduced my working hours (as a teacher) voluntarily because I wanted free time for other things; I was lucky enough to afford to do this, many are not. I then retired just over a year before I was due to receive a state pension, again because I could afford to do so. It's difficult for many to survive without a job, even into their late 60s, mainly, as you say, because people do not want to employ them.

I agree that the age should be increased but from an age when people can have a chance to plan for it. Here in Britain they are talking about putting it up to 70 and beyond; I hope there is a sliding scale depending upon date of birth. The sliding scale applied to me when they put up retirement age for women from 60 to 65 to match the men (quite fairly in my opinion) . I was entitled to my state pension at age 61 and, bizarrely, 4 days!

Retirement is great and you're right that many provide valuable support to society and therefore to the state. Great hub! Ann


Tusitala Tom profile image

Tusitala Tom 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Thanks, Annart; always good to hear from you. It has been commented on that, the earlier we retire the longer we live. I believe that is because, still being in relatively good health and having the energy, people launch into another chapter of life rather than saying to themselves, "Well, this is the end." They have time to think and plan and become enthusiastic about a life still ahead of them.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

I think that the retiring age and the workforce are totally out of kilter with each other, I have tried to get a job, I am in my 50s and I have worked since I was 16 in offices, doing everything, but I have tried to get back and they tend to look at me as though I am some sort of alien! so unless you can stay in the same job it seems worthless trying, and no I think they should keep the retirement age as it is, we have earned it!


Tusitala Tom profile image

Tusitala Tom 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

There is a solution, but it would take an all powerful and Draconian government to enforce it: Twenty-hour work weeks and no one allowed to work any overtime; the exception being if you're self employed. Heaps more jobs then!...


MPG Narratives profile image

MPG Narratives 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

The retirement age should be increased to 70 I agree. I have worked since I was 16 and still work 3days per week to help support my family and I have no intention of retiring for years yet. My two bosses are in their 70's and they don't want to retire yet either. If you're healthy and have good experience why shouldn't you keep working?

You make a good point about volunteers too, they certainly save the Government lots. If you are willing and able to work in paid or unpaid positions it should be given on merit and experience, not age. Thanks for a great hub, voted up, awesome and shared.


Tusitala Tom profile image

Tusitala Tom 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Thanks MPG Narratives, always love to get feedback.


arshiacom 3 years ago

The article was great . i FEEL THE RETIREMENT AGE SHOULD BE 55 OR MAXIMUM 58 not more than that and also pension should b given.


Alphadogg16 profile image

Alphadogg16 3 years ago from Texas

Very interesting article, however it's kind of difficult to say what the retirement age should be. Some people want to retire younger, some do not, some people are physically able to work in their later years, some are not. In this day & age, with people not taking care of themselves & staying healthy, most do not live to 70.


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Tusitala Tom profile image

Tusitala Tom 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Yes, Arshiacom, it would be wonderul to be able to get a pension enough to live well on at 55 or 58, but that's the whole point of the government's concern: Where is the money to come from?

Alphadogg16, you could well be right. At the moment people are living to eighty or so, but the way it looks, that will change. Just about the whole of Western Society seems to be grossly overweight and suffering from Type 2 (onset) diabetes.


carol3san profile image

carol3san 3 years ago from Hollywood Florida

The idea of a gradual retirement sounds nice. However, there are many people who are working long hours doing hard labor or standing on their feet all day. These people will have a much tougher time if they had to wait a longer time before retirement. They have certainly earned the privilege for retirement at the age the government already has in place.


Natasha Peters 3 years ago

An interesting read. It's strange; I know just as many people who cannot wait for their retirement as I do those who are absolutely dreading it. I think the main issue is the stigma surrounding age and older workers, despite study after study showing that age has minuscule bearing on the fitness of a person's mind, provided one keeps it active. Granted, as you discussed, physically intensive jobs are another thing, but the majority of careers should accommodate for an older workforce. A person with decades of experience and skill should be coveted, not pushed aside.


Tusitala Tom profile image

Tusitala Tom 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

I agree, Carol3san. Many workers do stay on doing jobs which are very hard on them as they age and certainly having to stand all day - or the better part of the day - would be one such job. Trouble is if they leave that employment the chances are they won't be able to get the sedentiary job they might need to remain in the workforce. Such fears keep them in that standing job until ill-health forces them out. For such people, the earlier the official retirement age the better.

Natasha Peters, I suspect there is often a psychological resistence to hiring people whom we might suspect are more world-wise than ourselves. "Mentors are great, but maybe not when we're paying their wages." could possibly a subtle reason why older people are often not taken on.

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