The age-old issue of the retirement age

I have been quite disturbed for some time about the proposed increase in the age of retirement for Vincentian civil servants from 55 years to 65 years and would like to explore the issue in this article.

Arguments for increasing the age of retirement to 65 years.

Several reports have indicated that the retirement age in some developed countries is as high as 65 years. The justification is that people can work longer since life expectancy has increased and populations are healthier. Additionally, an economic justification has been made for increasing the retirement age worldwide.


While 65 and over may seem to be an ideal age of retirement in many developed countries, I do not believe that it is the humane approach in this and other developing nations.  I will examine 2001 Census data related to occupation and health of the aging population.

Baseline data – demographics of the elderly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines

  • The total population in 2001 – 106 253.
  •  7 753 persons (7.30%) were 65+.
  • There was a 0.81% increase in the elderly population between 1991 and 2000.  This indicated either that more people joined this age group or that more elderly are living longer.
  • 6552 persons (85%) 65+ were economically inactive in 2001 (SVG Statistical Office, 2001, pg 63)
  • 1201 (14%) of persons 65+ participated in the labor force in 2001.

Questions

  • what kinds of jobs do the elderly perform?
  • What is their employment income?
  • What proportion of persons 60+ is actually employed by the Government?
  • What will be the impact of an extended retirement age on the elderly who are working in low-income jobs?

Occupational training in the age group 65 and over (Caricom stats, 2001, p 25)

The 2001 National  Census reported on occupational training among persons aged 15 to 65+.  Persons 65+ accounted for 7% of those who had received occupational training and 12% of those who had not received any occupational training.   Caricom stats (2001) also reports that the likelihood of receiving occupational training decreased after age 44 years.

Data also shows that only 6% of persons 65+ had received a secondary education, a prerequisite for at least entry into the Civil Service and other reasonably well-paying occupations.

Where are the occupationally trained employed? Larger numbers of the employed population 55 and over work mainly in:

  • skilled/agricultural
  • elementary work 
  • services/sales
  • craft 

It is interesting to note that the older the age group, the more likely they were to have been employed in agriculture activities. Additionally, about one in every three workers 65 years or older was employed as an agricultural worker, which requires heavy manual labor, compared to less than one in every ten for those younger than 35 years. This is a high ratio  (Caricom stats 2001).

Questions:

  • Will the untrained and employed members of the aging population who earn lower wages be able to physically carry out the kinds of work and heavy labor that they may be able to access?
  • Will they at all be able to access employment or will jobs be offered to younger persons who will be better able to carry them out due to greater strength and better education?
  • Will employers be willing to train persons in the over 44 age group in order to make them economically viable?
  • Would you like to see your elderly relative or loved one laboring as a mason, carpenter, watchman at that advanced age of life?

Labour Force participation among people 65 and over

1. Statistical Office Census data showed that about 14% of persons 65+ participated in the labor force in 2001.

2. Compare these figures with census data showing that  7% of persons 65 + had received occupational training.

Table 1  Working Age Population by Economic Activity, Age Group

and sex for  persons 55 and over, 2001

Age

Group      Total     Employed         Unemployed    Total in LF           Total not in

                                                                                                           Labor Force

55-59       2788       1343 (48%)        195  (7%)        1538 (55%)            1250 (44.8%)

60-64       2746        923 (34%)         109 (4%)         1032 (37.5%)         1714 (62%)

65+          7753       1078 (14%)        70 (0.9%)        1148  (14.8%)        6605 (85.1%)

Source: Caricom Stats 2001.

Which sector is likely to bear the highest cost of paying salaries and employment benefits for employees  up to age 65+ 

The private sector is more likely to bear a higher cost of employing persons 65+ since trends show they employ more than 50% of the working population.  Will this be a benefit or a disadvantage?

Table 2 Employed population by type of worker

during the week before census 2001 and 1991

Employment status

Number

Percentage

2001

1991

2001

1991

Paid Employee – Government

6,571

6,933

19

21

Paid Employee – Private 

18,843

17,816

55

53

Paid Employee – Statutory

1053

3.1

Unpaid Family Worker

593

765

1.7

2.3

Own Business without Paid Employee

1,794

1859

5.2

5.6

Own Business without Paid Employee

5040

6001

15

18

Apprentice

32

0.1

TOTAL

33926

33374

99.1

99.9

 Source: SVG Statistical Office 2001

Questions:

  • What percentage of this working population actually received retirement benefits from the Government coffers?
  • What is the proportion of this number when compared to the actual number of live persons 65 years and over?
  • What is the proportion when compared with the number of deaths in the age group 65 years and over?
  • Is this statistically significant (I will ask the statisticians to calculate that, thanks). 
  • Will Government have to increase spending on the disabled persons 60+ who will be unable to work.

Comment

Twenty eight percent of persons aged 65 + reported having a disability,with visual impairment being most common (Caricom stats, 2001). Eighty five percent did not have insurance, an important factor necessary in accessing expensive specialized health care (Caricom stats 2001).

Increasing the retirement age to 65 seems to point to the need to examine the available health care social and services necessary to maintain the health of persons as they approach the retirement age. 

Retirement in the bible

Human systems have argued for and increased the retirement age to a time when, in my opinion, people should enjoy the benefits of their labour and service to their countries. If the average individual begins to work at 20 years, increasing the retirement age to 65 means that they would spend 45 years in the labour force.

Given that the life expectancy in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is 70 years (WHO 2013), a retirement at 65 seems rather unfair. 

The compassionate and loving God set a great example for us. Scriptures show clearly, for example, that a priest entered the priesthood at age 30 and retired at 50 years.  He therefore spent twenty years in full-time ministry (Numbers chapters 4 & 8). 

Given the fact that Jews often lived very long, the individual therefore had time to potter about, get engaged in other activities and enjoy family and life before passing on at a ripe old age.   – 20 years of service.

What a kind God!

In conclusion, I would personally recommend raising the retirement age back to 60 years and not 65 as this is a more humane approach to the issue.

As for me, I claim the 120 years  (Genesis 6: 3) allotted to me by God, so that I could teach His Word and reveal His Ways to the generations of the earth. Do you have the courage to claim this and to make the lifestyle changes that would lead to long life?

You will show me the path of life (Psalm 16: 11).

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