Future Friday: The end of retirement?

by Michael Haberman on December 18, 2015 · 0 comments


Older workers can and should improve their skills and employers should pay attention.

Older workers can and should improve their skills and employers should pay attention.

I was reading an article in The Guardian about the five ways work will change in the future. The first four ways dealt with workplace structures, the increasing use of Artificial Intelligence, the increasing use of freelance labor and the increasing use of workplace monitoring. They are all subjects I have written about before in other Future Friday posts. The fifth change they talked about is the subject of retirement, something, I must admit, has been a more frequent subject in my life.

Forget 65

There are a number of reasons that the “standard” retirement age of 65 is no longer viable. These include:

  • Increased life expectancy. In the US life expectancy for females is 81.2 years; for males, it’s 76.4 years. In the UK the average is above 81 years.
  • Changed government programs, such as social security are increasing the age at which benefits are available. Already in the US the full retirement age for anyone born since 1943 is 66, not 65. In the UK retirement which currently stands at 65 for men and 62 for women in the UK, will rise to 67 for both by 2028.
  • Insufficient savings. In a time when the common wisdom is that you need a $1 million saved for retirement most people fall far short of having that saved. Many people need to continue working just to pay the bills and put food on the table.
  • People spend their lives “doing work” and the thought of being idle because of no work scares them. They are told they can be busy doing volunteer work, but many figure that if they are going to be busy they may as well work and continue to earn.

Phased retirement

As a result of these issues the idea of phased retirement was introduced. A period of doing less work offers benefits for both the worker and the employer. For the worker these benefits are obvious both monetarily and social. For the employer the benefits include knowledge retention and skill retention. Of course there are challenges for both groups as well.

Challenges

A huge challenge is for employers to realize the value of older workers. Too many employers engage in age discrimination. The Guardian article says:

Even though legislation such as the Equality Act in the UK aims to prevent employers from discriminating on the basis of age, the odds are often stacked against older people applying for jobs. ‘Sometimes, when an employer has a choice between two candidates, one with up-to-date skills and another with experience and a qualification from 40 years ago, there might be some logic for a risk-averse employer to choose the first candidate,’ says Flynn. ‘But it might also be because employers assume that younger people are more adaptable, cheaper, more tech-savvy and are going to stay with the organisation longer.’

We have similar protections in the US with the ADEA, but as I have written a number of times, age discrimination is still rampant in American business.

The challenge to the worker will be the changing nature of jobs. Many will require technical skills that are not possessed by many. Does that mean these skills cannot be learned? Not at all, as long as people are willing to embrace the learning process. Too many people however are not willing to invest in themselves or change their attitude about their ability. I must admit that I get frustrated with my contemporaries in their lack of willingness to improve and their resignation to their lot in life.

To solve these problems both businesses and workers are going to need some attitude adjustment. I know that I plan on working well beyond my full retirement age, which much to my chagrin is arriving much faster than I would like.

What suggestions do you have for solving our dilemma?


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