State bid to get older people back into work

The Government is planning a campaign to get older people “sitting” on the live register back to work and to also encourage senior workers to put off retirement, writes Juno McEnroe.

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty says there is a “real challenge” with older people sitting on the live register.

Furthermore, Ms Doherty confirmed savings from a drop in unemployment have been eaten up by more people reaching pensionable age.

In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Ms Doherty said she was looking at a JobsPlus-type scheme to get people in their 60s back to work. Elderly people let go or out of work were seen as not employable, and she wants to change this.

“There is a real challenge at the moment with old people sitting on our live register,” she said. “The fact that we a number of years ago changed the retirement age from 65 to 66, it has got to change to 67 in a couple of years.

“We need to find employment for those people because right now what we are doing is telling them that when they reach a certain age, and the cut off point for social welfare is 62, sure you are never going to get another job again, you go sit on this transition payment until you get your pension.

“I think that is not ambitious enough for people who are well able to work, who want to work.”

The 65-plus age group in Ireland is among the fastest rising in the EU. Estimates suggest by 2041, up to 1.4 million people in this country will be over 65.

A Positive Ageing report last year said the employment rate for adults aged 50-64 was 63%.

However, almost two thirds of people in that age group also have low numeracy and literacy skills, the national report found.

The Government is also planning to incentivise people to stay in work longer. A practice of insisting by contract, particularly in the public sector, people must go at the age of 65 needed to end, said Ms Doherty.

“Let’s put incentives in place to park that contributory pension until 68 or 69 and we’ll incentivise the [pension] pot to get bigger while you carry on working because you can,” she said.

Ms Doherty pointed out how a 72-year-old had recently taken up work in her department.

“I actually think that is deadly, 72 and he wants to come and work,” she said.

“If we lead in the public sector, the private sector will follow.

If I can actually incentivise people, by either first of all providing them with employment in that category of maybe 60 to 66, but also those that are working to incentivise them to stay working, then everybody wins.”

Ms Doherty confirmed that this would also help the social insurance fund, which is in “serious deficit”.

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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