55 is too young to retire Editorial
Stabroek News
December 12, 2003

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And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years. - Abraham Lincoln

The working group which examined the movement of Caricom nationals under the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) at last week's national summit, recommended raising the age of retirement in Guyana. This was in recognition of the fact that if movement of skills was to be truly free, conditions of work should be similar throughout the region. The group noted that in Guyana the age of retirement was 55 years, while in other parts of the region it was 60 and 65. It was suggested that the retirement age in Guyana be raised to 60.

This makes sense, not only to facilitate the free movement of skills around the region, but to retain more of the already scarce human resources here. The shortage of skilled personnel, particularly teachers and nurses, who have been and continue to be recruited in large numbers by agencies in developed countries, has been written about several times. In the minds of many young people in Guyana higher education is a means to an end; the end being not the acquisition of a job or career in service to their country, but the moving on to so-called greener pastures. This drains Guyana's pool of skilled human resources and retirement at the still productive age of 55 makes it even drier.

It can be and no doubt has been argued that while some young people leave many remain and are unable to find employment; and that extending the age when persons retire will serve to compound this problem. But letters to the editor and articles published by this newspaper in recent weeks with regard to National Insurance Scheme pensions as well as other pension schemes have brought to light the difficulty which many seniors experience with this retirement prop. And in many instances, because the pensions received are too meagre for even the provision of basic living expenses, seniors either end up poverty stricken or vying with youths for jobs in the private sector.

And they are hard to find. Many institutions/ agencies put the words "young" and "energetic" in job advertisements, listing them as 'qualities' sought in their recruitment drive. The words "computer literate" also automatically disqualify many seniors. The reality is that many employers prefer younger people who are more trainable than their older counterparts and who, they hope, will remain with the organisation longer.

However, value must also be placed on knowledge of systems and institutional memory. Retaining trained human resources for another five or perhaps even ten years of their working life makes sense all around. Workers' representatives and members of parliament need to take this issue on board.