Posted: September 16th, 2017

Mandatory Retirement at the Age of 60. Is It Right?

Nobody ever wants to think of retirement. First and for most, to some people, retirement means goodbye to ones earnings. This takes a huge toll especially on those who consider themselves to be earning well. For others, it is a huge loss as it marks an end to their passion; what they love to do that they would be willing to do it for no pay.  What really does retirement mean? In some cases, people retire out of their own volition. No coercion is needed to get them out of ‘power’. They look at it as a time to take a break and enjoy the fruit of their labor. Nevertheless, some people are ‘forced into retirement. This is known as mandatory retirement. Mandatory retirement is a provision given by the law or industrial custom for specific job descriptions. One then asks, “Why is such a provision given for specific job types and for what reasons?”

Mandatory retirement is prescribed in occupations that are deemed to be dangerous or demand high cognitive and physical skill. These include firefighters, military personnel, air traffic controllers and airline pilots. Different countries prescribe different ages of retirement but generally, it lies between 60 to 70. The main reason given for this legislation is that it is look out for the safety of the public. In the event, that a 67 year old pilot failed to man the airship as expected, the lives of many would be in jeopardy. If the 70 year old fireman was slow in running up the stairs to save a baby’s life, the baby would die not because they could not be saved. It would simply be because the firefighter was too old to act swiftly. Thus, in the long run, there is need to consider other people’s safety.

In addition to that, those subjected to mandatory retirement enjoy good retirement benefits. The incentives are packaged in a way that tries to ensure one doesn’t feel the pinch of having lost their job. In some cases, they only cease to go to the field but may be retained as advisory support. This shows that the organizations they work for acknowledge them as investments and would hate to lose them. According to the National Business Aviation Association (2011), a pilot who has reached sixty years is not allowed to act as pilot in command of an aircraft. Clearly, it does not mean that they lose their jobs but rather they co-pilot.

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Furthermore, it is argued that mandatory retirement is beneficial to the younger employees who also seek to rise in ranks. The only way they can do this is if the older generation paves the way for them by retiring. This is illustrated by Jang (2011) who narrates the story of Mr.Ennis, a pilot who is about to retire as per the provisions of the Air Canada airlines but does not want to. His move to retain his job is objected to by a younger colleague, Capt. Cory Brown aged 33. To him, extending Ennis’s tenure is punishing the younger pilots.  He argues that the younger pilots also need to earn the big bucks.

Sad to say, this is not how another category views the situation. On the contrary, they see it as discrimination or ageism.  Those that are directly affected argue that mandatory retirement has no basis. As argued out by Gokhale, mortality rates of the aged has greatly reduced over the years, thus employees in their sixties are in good shape to run their jobs (2004). He goes to say that these categories of workers dedicate their time to serving such that their occupation does not allow them the room for transfer of skills. Hence, if they are to retire, then they cannot get alternative employment. This leaves them in an awkward position.

To add on to that, when these people lack employment, the burden of supporting them is left on their children. This may put a strain on the relationship as the parents also would feel like a burden to their children. Sometimes, the children are forced to put these parents in foster care homes. In these homes, the parents would feel incapacitated as they can no longer do anything except sit around the whole day. In case of Mr. Ennis, he feels the need to continue providing for his wife. Thus, he has opted to work for a lesser pay so long as he is still putting food on the table.

Another interesting scenario presented by CBC News Canada, highlights that very few people nowadays work for an organization up to the time they are 60 or 65 years (2010). Many employees nowadays hop from one institution to another. Hence, to send the 65 year old employee packing would be deemed humane. Having invested the best time of their lives to an organization, the last thing the organization should do is force the employee to retire.

In conclusion, retirement is an issue that needs to be treated with a lot of sensitivity. There are those that don’t mind retiring at the stipulated age whereas there are others who still feel they have something to offer. Thus, every situation needs to be handled individually rather than generalize the mandatory retirement rule.

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