‘Cause for alarm’ over pension provision
The Government is looking into occupational pensions to ensure the system remains “responsive”, but Charles Jeffers of Age Concern questioned “how in the world they are going to produce” with less people working in Bermuda to contribute funds.
A declining birth rate combined with emigration spelled “causes for alarm”, Mr Jeffers said, in the aftermath of the latest Budget statement — in which Bob Richards acknowledged that struggling seniors comprised the bulk of clients on assistance.
Precise figures are not kept on the numbers of Bermudians who leave the island, and Mr Jeffers said many who did were “suffering and would love to come home”.
“They need an incentive,” he said. “But the incentive would be jobs and somewhere to live. If we don't increase our base and our jobs market and number of people, we're in serious trouble.”
Pensions were introduced when 65 was the age of retirement and life expectancies stood considerably lower than today, he said: “When I started working in the 1950s, there was no government pension. Private pensions started when I was 59.”
Now, with medical insurance costs standing as “the big killer”, many seniors were losing most of their pensions to coverage.
“I know of one lady who cancelled insurance for herself and her husband to save money. She knows that if she has to go to the hospital, they can't turn away.”
Mr Richards did note that “there are still many seniors that are struggling to make ends meet, and with the high cost of healthcare, find themselves in financial straits”.
Mr Jeffers said that one of the Government's problems with revenue dated back to the time of Ewart Brown's leadership under the Progressive Labour Party “when we decided to make everything free”.
He questioned the logic of breaks on payments for seniors, and the provision of free public transport for schoolchildren.
“It's great if we could afford it, but we can't,” Mr Jeffers said. “It should be a nominal amount. Now seniors are having to pay because the Government cannot give them more benefits.
“Not every senior is poor. What if we paid $1 to ride the bus or the ferry? That could provide income to prop up pensions or FutureCare.”