Harriet Harman's call for a ban on compulsory retirement in mainland Britain needs to be echoed here in Jersey. For those whose circumstances permit it, it is a fine thing to be able to devote one's life to leisure and, maybe, voluntary work before one has grown too frail. On the other hand, there are many more who can still work, when they reach nominal retirement age, and would rather continue to earn a real wage than struggle on a pension.
There are a lot of employers who follow good practice in allowing the willing to work on past their official retirement age. Sadly, there also plenty more with no shame in taking an “ageist” approach to their human resources management. There would be benefits both to the individuals concerned and to Jersey as a society and economy, if there were to be legal constraints placed on employers' freedom to put their workers on the street just for exceeding an arbitrary number of birthdays.
For individuals, the fall in income spells at best a sharp reduction in their standard of living, and quite possibly real hardship, especially for those whose employers insist on retiring them before States Pension age.
For Jersey as a whole, maximising the years of work from each person helps to address two perennial problems. Firstly, to fill the job that has been vacated, another worker must be found, and that person may have to be imported, aggravating the overpopulation: Keeping people as economically active instead of replacing them as employees and adding them to the pension burden makes economic sense. Secondly, Social Security and Pension funding has long been difficult. A parallel change to ending compulsory retirement, in which the many who have not spent their entire working life in Jersey could continue to pay contributions to add to their credits beyond their eligible retirement date, instead of claiming the pension, would both help the fund's income, and improve the lot of the workers, when they do decide that they are ready to retire.
I take quite a personal interest in this subject, as my own employer warned me a couple of years ago that I would be terminated at 60, when the company pension scheme matures. However, only having a few years contributions to this scheme will give me nothing like a living income from it, for the five years before I can get state pensions from Jersey and the UK. And 60 year-olds tend not to go to the front of the queue in applying for new jobs. So, already, I am having to look around for lower-paid work, just to be able to stay until I am 65 or more. I am still likely to have dependent children in further education to support then, let alone myself. My wife's career is secure enough, but it is hardly fair to expect her to keep me as a house husband in her own middle age. It would be a weght off my shoulders if I no longer had to worry about the sack for a 60th birthday present.
Perhaps the “establishment” and “anti-establishment” groupings in the States could take a break from the point-scoring and get together on this matter, as something where they could make a positive difference for many islanders, for once.