Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Human Resources Are Too Precious To Scrap Before Time

The recent announcement, that the States intend to make most people wait a little longer to become Old Age Pensioners, is a necessary consequence of the way that most people are getting old more slowly in this time of unprecedentedly good public health. More years of pension being drawn must need either higher deductions or a longer period of them, if not both, to remain affordable.

However, I hope that they are going to join up the thinking on this. 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. Unless they couple the change with a move to outlaw compulsory retirement of employees before state pension age, they are going to accumulate a pile of very mature unemployed, too old to appeal to most “Human Resources” or Personnel Managers, who are just drawing Income Support instead of Old Age Pension, and still putting no more into the pot. The need is for people to work for longer, not merely wait for their pensions for longer.

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.

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 can currently 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.

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.


Anonymous said...

The scale of the situation is difficult to grasp. I heard a report that in the UK a quarter of today's under 16's are expected to live to over 100.
These projections are, of course , littered with assumptions and caveats. generally they assume all else continues in some quasi-steady state. I would wager the projections have minimal consideration of peak-oil, water and food availability in a 9 billion population world, or climate change effects for example.

Our current population policy derives from the Imagine Jersey 2030 event which pointedly and deliberately excluded consideration of such items.

Ugh, It's Him! said...

As you say, there are a lot of foreseeable ways the mortality rate could get pushed back up in the next few decades. But, if there are still significant numbers of centenarians in future years, they (or, hopefully, we!)will need to work for a lot more than four-and-a-half of our ten decades to keep ourselves in any worthwhile style.
Anyway, I have long had a theory that keeping going keeps you going. As a teenager, I once stopped on a walk to chat with a fencing contractor hammering in posts. He turned out to be 75, and was still doing harder physical work than I could have managed at 17. I found a moral in that.