Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Workers will have to work longer!


I often hear it said in the news on the radio or television, that we are living longer, that we have more 65 year old people alive today than those under the age of 18. The retirement age for workers will rise to nearly 70 and is being phased in over the next ten years, or to be more specific, normal retirement age in the UK is 65 for a man and 60 for a woman. The state retirement age is set to increase to 65 for men and women by 2020. It will then rise to 66 between 2024 and 2026, to 67 between 2034 and 2036 and to 68 between 2044 and 2046. A review of the default retirement age, which allows employers to compel staff to retire at 65, is to be brought forward by a year, the government has announced. The majority of people retire before 65, but 1.3 million people work beyond state pension age. Many more say they would if their employer permitted it - they need their heads examined. But of course this very much depends on what sort of work you are doing, for instance I had a friend (Peat) who worked in the Rod and Barr Mill on Scunthorpe Steel Works for many years. Peat decided in the 90s to except early retirement when a redundancy package was offered him. He was just under 60 at the time, I would say that the years of working in a dirty, dangerous environment along with the steelworker’s lifestyle of pubs, beer, fag's, fish Chips with real mushy peas (a traditional northern accompaniment) had all impacted on his health, and within five years of retirement Peat had sadly died. I've always put Peat’s death, especially down to the lifetime spent slaving on the works, constantly breathing in the dust and particles that had deposited themselves on his chest, during his last years he struggled with asthma and had become dependent on a nebuliser and spray. I'm going off the beaten track a bit here, but not only was Peat a very good friend even though' a member of the SWP, not hard core, just someone who hated the whole capitalist system. But above all else he was a casualty; one of the millions whose life was and is still cut short by systematic exploitation. I have many good memory's of Peat and the times we worked together on some campaign or other, but that's as they say another story.

In our society a big thing is made of retirement and the retreat from work, understandably workers have made plans to pursue a more leisurely existence after a lifetimes employment, with many workers having pined there hope's on workplace pension schemes of one form or another. However the financial health of workplace pensions has been eroded by higher taxes and stock market underperformance. Personal pensions have fallen out of favour with many because of poor performance and miss-selling scandals. Remember the Maxwell affair - where Mirror Group workers had their pensions stolen. More recently, confidence has been further undermined by the collapse of a large number of company final salary pension schemes. Final salary schemes, which pay workers a pension depending on length of service and salary, have long been considered the gold standard of pension provision. But 85.000 workers have lost these pensions. Even those who have not lost their retirement savings are feeling the pinch of the pension’s crisis. Up to two thirds of all final salary pensions schemes are now closed to new members. This means that longstanding members still enjoy final salary rights while new joiners are often shunted into inferior pension schemes with no guarantees. And then the other scenario is the government and employers have become increasingly aware of what has become known as the "demographic time bomb". Put simply, in future there will be fewer people of working age to pay the pensions of the retired. This impacts on all types of pension saving and according to the government's Pensions Commission means people will either have to work longer, save more or pay higher taxes. "Looking at the position of people today in their 20s and 30s, ultimately it is being suggested that they are going to have to work longer. That’s if there are enough jobs to go around?

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