Terry Prone: Ordinary workers not allowed keep up with Jones in their retirement

Terry Prone: Ordinary workers not allowed keep up with Jones in their retirement

If Tom Jones had worked in Ireland and not in show business, his future would have stopped at 65, says Terry Prone.

LET’S not talk about the general election. Let’s look at Tom Jones,instead.

The editorial in this paper last Friday managed to get Tom Jones and our election into the same paragraph, which must deserve some kind of a prize.

The point was that the tens of thousands of people “who fret that they face income collapse when they retire” may find a sliver of inspiration in Tom Jones being a headline act at the Live at the Marquee series of concerts in June, “just five days before his 80th birthday”.

Tom Jones is a lucky Welshman. Imagine if he’d been born in Ireland and had not worked in show business.

He’d have found the green green grass of his future stopped dead at 65, unless he got himself into An Garda Síochána, in which case he’d have been out the door earlier, at 60, even if he could prove his skills were as sharp as when he was 50.

That’s the wider issue attached to the pension thing. The French are right to protest that they work hard, physical jobs, which leave them, by 60 years of age, knackered. They should be facilitated to retire at that age, with a livable pension.

Ditto for anyone in Ireland worn out by the physical exertion or the mental tedium of their work. Nobody should be forced to work past the point where work is enjoyable, nor be impoverished when they quit.

Now, set all that pension stuff aside and look at the other end of the stick: where citizens who are perfectly healthy, sound in wind and limb, energetic and intellectually all there, are forced outof their jobs because they have reached 65.

Last year, out of nine people over the age of 65, one was what’s called “economically active”.

Still working, in other words. That may sound a small number, but it’s up 50% on the previous decade. Which means it may be, nay, certainly is, a trend.

A trend we should be encouraging, given that this time 10 years down the road, in 2030, this country will have 1m people over the age of 65.

If the trend of being ‘economically active’ continues, then more than 100,000 people over the ageof 65 will be working. If the trend accelerates, perhaps a quarter of a million of them might be employed.

This would be a good thing. The workplace is where most of us spend our lives, where we communicate, develop a sense of self-worth, and earn money.

Terry Prone: Ordinary workers not allowed keep up with Jones in their retirement

It keeps us intellectually alive and physically active. It beats the hell out of most of the alternatives.

And yet, as the headlines throughout the year underline, this is not something that’s seen as a basic human right.

Willis Towers Watson, a financial services firm, surveyed workers in 71% of Irish companies and found an interesting disconnect.

Most of the companies have rules about when staff should retire, and 90% of those that have such rules insist employees leave when they reach the (black) magic age of 65.

The disconnect lies in the fact that large numbers of those employees want the opposite. They want to continue working into their late sixties or seventies.

Some of them want to work on because they love what they do. Some want to work on because their finances are goosed and their mortgage as yet undischarged. Some want to work for both reasons.

But the overwhelming majority of the companies they serve say: “Uh, uh. Out the door with you. Shelf life exceeded.”

It may not be said out loud, but the message is clear to their staff: It doesn’t matter what service you’ve given in the past or how much of a team player you are or how much you still have to offer; we, your employers, will cut you off at the pass and evict you from the place where you’ve given the service and served on the team, and we will do this simply on the basis of your age.

This pointless discrimination against older workers stimulates the weirdest responses from people who think they believe in equality.

For example, one report about how workers feel about retirement was headed: ‘Only a third of people want to keep working after the age of 66.’ Why the ‘only’? Given the pressures already mentioned and the physical exhaustion that affects some people in their old age, a third is an amazing figure.

Similarly, listening to a radio item about older workers recently, I was shocked and inflamed when it was stated that forced retirement “frees up jobs for the next generation”.

This was said not by a shopper jolted into idiocy by a microphone put in front of their face in the street, but by the person presenting the programme.

The egregious bias was clear: Younger people are somehow more deserving of jobs than are older people.

The same argument wasadvanced, in my youth, to justify expelling women from the civil service when they married: They had got themselves a provider, so it was time to give over their job to a more worthy, ie, single, person.

It took a while to kill off that one, but nobody in their right mind, today, would suggest women should leave the workplace because their marital status makes them into a lesser person.

AND this latest suggestion that older folk should give up their place on thecareer bus to the young ones has a disproportionate impact on women.

Large numbers of women who enter the workplace with high promotional hopes get lassoed by the wondrous noose of childbearing.

Many of those women take time out to be present with their children, returning after several years, fulfilled, but also disadvantaged.

It takes time to get to where they would have been had they stayed put. That’s one aspect of the oncoming problem.

The other is that they’ll livelonger than their partners, if those partners are male. So being told they’re going to enter the golden years of retirement, whether or not they want to, is a double whammy.

They’re deprived of the years that would allow them to make thecareer progress they postponed, and forced to spend at home and jobless the extra years MotherNature delivers to women.

The exceptions to this forced exit rule are to be found all around the country: men and women happily working into their seventies or eighties, or sometimes longer.

The reason, of course, is that they employ themselves. Now, there’s a great slogan: ‘Start your own business: They can’t fire you when you hit 65.’

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