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Working beyond retirement age

The continued omission of age discrimination in employment from the latest planned amendments to the Human Rights Act has caused controversy. One of the arguments put forward by Age Concern — that workers should not be prevented from working beyond the traditional retirement age on the basis of age itself — highlights a wider issue for this community in the coming years.

There are many reasons why older people would want to carry on working. First, because of the advances in healthcare and healthier lifestyles, many are far from ready to retire at 65 and have many more good years to offer their employer. The idea that ‘60 is the new 40’ raises the question of whether 65 is an appropriate retirement age for the 21st Century.

Second, given the high cost of living in Bermuda and, in particular, soaring healthcare costs, older people need to work longer to make ends meet. The financial crash of five years ago, the collapse of Butterfield Bank shares and the departure of thousands of rent-paying expatriates in recent years may have derailed even the best-laid retirement plans, forcing many to work longer than they had planned.

One of the problems with an ageing population is that it means more people (seniors) are drawing from the system while fewer (working-age population) are paying into it. It follows that when older people work for longer, it eases pressure on the public purse. Every year workers continue to draw a wage they can hold back from drawing a pension and at the same time, put more aside for future years, while continuing to contribute payroll taxes.

The other side of the coin is that if people are slower to exit the workforce, what does that mean for young people looking for a job? According to the Labour Force Survey carried out last year, about a third of people aged between 16 and 24 were seeking work as of May 2012. The recession is disproportionately hitting both the young and seniors.

The most obvious solution would seem to be economic growth and more jobs, so there’s enough work for everyone who wants it. Easier said than done in these difficult times, but at least we know that is a priority of the One Bermuda Alliance Government.

In the meantime the fight to prevent age discrimination in the workplace will go on.

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Published May 09, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated May 08, 2013 at 8:36 pm)

Working beyond retirement age

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