Now, I’m not there yet but I think retirement could be a pretty cool place to be. But when I get there I don’t want to find a younger and clueless generation have messed it up.
I’d written most of this by the way before today’s announcement about increasing the pension age to 66….
Good, says the Economist, for older people to continue working, good for their health, happiness and for tax reasons. Patronising stuff. Most people when they get to their late 60s are slowing down physically a little, let’s be honest about that. And with less energy they’re supposed to compete with a younger generations of workers who have the energy – and don’t want older people around, certainly their bosses don’t.
At the same time as pensioners are urged back on to the job market we have 25% reductions in government departmental budgets promised, with a big job shakeout, so there will be just a few more people out there looking for the jobs which the older generation is trying to cling on to – or get back into.
In times of boom conditions and full employment (which are cyclical) there might be jobs. But not now.
Much talk also of part-time jobs: yes, that makes sense, but we’re a million years from a world where employers start negotiating pared-back, reduced-time contracts. How would this work in practice, and just what would these part-timers, coming in two or three days a week, or arriving at 10 and leaving at 4, do?
Yes, it’s true, employers haven’t begun to buy into this notion, and unless we completely re-think the workplace they’re not likely to. We can all think of the sector we know best. Mine is book publishing, a profession where people tend to disappear after 40. Teaching: just how many teachers are still at their best in their 60s? Teaching the pre-tens and teens puts a unique stress on you. Basic office work: it’s possible, but just how long can anyone keep pushing paper for?
There’s much talk of the voluntary sector, of people getting out there and creating the big society. Polls tell us most people don’t want to get involved, as workers and parents they haven’t too much time. Who are the best people for getting involved in voluntary social activity – all that helping, caring, support, charity shops and much more? I’d suggest retired people in their 60s and 70s, putting in substantial amounts of time each week, but at their own pace.
We’ve also heard a lot recently about the babies of baby boomers getting back at the parents who have apparently done so well, benefiting from the irresponsible levels of debt built up over fifty years. There’s more than a touch of ageism here and in the wider argument. It’s a younger generation making assumptions about an older generation. Sadly there’s onlyKen Clarke there among the politicians to speak up – and he’s out of the policy loop.
Not for a moment am I arguing there isn’t a huge pension problem. But answers have to deal with realities of life as you live it in your 60s and not with the way others’ might imagine it.