Work until you drop or be called an ageing skiver
The World Economic Forum has said that the retirement age in the UK, already scheduled to rise to 68 by 2046, should be raised to 70 by 2050. Britain and other nations, such as the US, Canada and Japan, have ageing populations with life expectancies of 100, which could lead to the biggest pensions crisis in world history.
“The anticipated increase in longevity and resulting ageing populations is the financial equivalent of climate change,” said Michael Drexler, WEF’s head of financial and infrastructure systems. In short, people in the UK would keep working until they’re 70, because the state would not be able to provide adequate pensions. So now, questions must be asked, not least, if people pay their taxes, why wouldn’t the state be able to provide pensions? What’s being prioritised instead? Moreover, what kind of work would older people be realistically doing and what would happen when they couldn’t work?
Retirement in the classic sense seems to be changing; the solid job followed by the solid retirement is being phased out, sometimes in a positive way. There are people who might wish to retire from what they’re doing now, but only to start up another scheme. But it’s not all about groovy seniors opening seafood restaurants or writing crime novels. At the lower end of the financial scale, there are plenty of people who already have a daily struggle to make ends meet, can’t wait to see the back of work, but don’t see how they’d cope financially. For them, there’s little hope of sepia-tinted, “autumn of life” adventures. Let’s concentrate on those kinds of people – what are the ramifications of higher retirement ages for them?
In Britain, relatively young people, even actual young people, are in work that neither fulfils them, nor pays them sufficiently, never mind allowing them to save, buy a property or start a pension. Instead, many UK workers are prey to a gig economy that exploits and rejects their labour as it sees fit. How would this situation change as people get older, except for the worse? While some companies make a point of hiring older people, appreciating their reliability and experience, this isn’t happening across the board.
Even those who worked in decent jobs in their youth would presumably find these increasingly closed to them and have to accept inferior, less stable work. While modifying your expectations as you age is one thing, this savage fall off the employment cliff is quite another. Nor does longevity necessarily equal fitness, especially as we’re regularly informed that obesity and other lifestyle factors are taking a significant toll on the nation’s health.
Indeed, while older people might be alive and breathing, would they be fit to work? If they have health problems, as a significant number of people do as they age, what would happen then? To answer that, you just have to look at what happens to people of all ages who are not fit to work right now – how, under the present state of Tory welfare, even the disabled have been rebranded as cunning skivers working the system.
From here, it’s not such a short leap to see how a person’s 60s and 70s could go from the Golden Years to the Skiving Years. How older people could be rebranded as a new breed of Silver Slackers embezzling benefits by, say, sneakily suffering a stroke. If you were really paranoid, by 2050, you could see a certain type of government abandoning retirement ages/pensions altogether, transforming it all into one big, silver-themed benefits/dementia tax – a sort of Cocoon crossed with The Hunger Games-type deal. I can almost hear the dramatic voiceover: “Previous ageing generations only had sudoku to keep them mentally agile… ” While what the WEF said was instructive, perhaps the point should be made that it’s not that people particularly fear the retirement age being raised – they fear everything else falling.