Should retirement age for govt employees be raised?

The argument that increasing the retirement age aggravates the employment problem is also not true. In Nagaland; only 8 to 9% of the population is employed with the government. Bidhu Shekhar, IPS, SP Dimapur

Addressing his arm-chair, in his old age, the poet Somerville said: ‘’So safe on shore the pensioned sailor lies/ And all the malice of the storm defies/ With ease of body blest and peace of mind/ Pities the restless crew he left behind/ Whilst in his cell, he meditates alone/On his great voyage to the world unknown.’’ 

That was 250 years ago, but today pension issues-also referred as “pension time bomb” need to be viewed differently. The wake-up call for the government is here as we might soon “have more pensioners than active workers and taxpayers”. People are living longer now, retire early and have fewer children. Without timely reforms, the government would “not be able to pay for the expected spurt in the number of retired people, as pension. 

The 5th Pay Commission recommended increase of retirement age for central government employees from 58 years to 60 years. The rational for it was that not only longevity of people has increased but also their health and the tax paying capacity has increased. One of the reports state that “assuming that workers remain in good enough health to work the extra years, raising the normal retirement age results in additional  revenues for three reasons. First, since people will have to work longer before receiving full benefits, they will also have to pay taxes longer. Second, workers will receive full benefits later in life and, hence, receive fewer total benefits. And finally, as the retirement age is pushed back, fewer people will reach it, reducing the number of people who will ever see benefits at all.”

Demographic ageing is a global phenomenon. Studies reveal that the longevity of life is increasing at the rate of one month per year. With a comparatively young population, India is still poised to become home to the second largest number of older persons in the world. Projection studies indicate that the number of 60+ in India will increase to 100 million in 2013 and to 198 million in 2030.  Same is true for Nagaland as people are ageing equally and we too have access to the similar medical facilities as in other parts of the country. If the Central Government on the recommendations of the Vth Pay Commission increased the retirement age by two years; they why our government servants are kept deprived of it. Most of the state governments emulated the Central Government policy and they all have increased the retirement age. Then; why there shouldn’t be parity among different states on this issue.

The argument that increasing the retirement age aggravates the employment problem is also not true. In Nagaland; only 8 to 9% of the population is employed with the government. Also; since after couple of years after the increase; the number of vacancies tend to get back to the previous figures; the hue and cry against increase isn’t well-founded.

If the retirement age is increased by two years, then the finance departments get a four-year advantage. Firstly, since the person is retiring after serving for another two years, he will take pension for two years less. Additionally, since he is working for two more years, he will contribute also for two more years

Progress has, in many ways, wiped out traditional values of filial piety and there will be an increasing number of senior citizens in nursing homes or who are left to fend for themselves. Already, the present trend of couples having fewer children has resulted in an increasing number of aged parents being sent to nursing homes.  

For instance, compared to many families of yesteryears which comprised between six and 10 children who could take turns to care for their parents, a pair of siblings these days would find it hard taking care of their parents and in-laws, in addition to their own families. Provided these seniors are still able to work, keeping them in the workforce might have to be considered as much a matter of social justification in much the same way as retaining students up to class 10 or 12 is considered preferable to throwing the dropouts into an uncertain future. In the same vein, then, perhaps employers, in the long run, will have to consider allowing workers to retire at 60 or later. To retain those able and willing to stay on the job after 57 will allow both parties the flexibility to exercise some degree of choice. 

For one, employees aged 57 and above may still be very efficient, able and productive to the department they are attached to and the country as a whole. It is only logical then that those who are still productive may prefer to continue working, if not for the mandatory age of retirement. In fact, the retired workforce represents “a huge pool” of “overlooked talent” for short-term projects. Also; the rich experience of the old people should not be discarded so easily. Infact; alternatively; there could be an optional increase in retirement offered to those who are able and can contribute further in a major way.

Another growing concern against lower retirement age is that these days people are entering late into government services and are getting married late. The average entry age in the government sector these days is 28-29 years while it was 23-24 few decades back. Retiring them at 57 gives them a reduced service period. This can be perceived as they are retiring “young”. Also; increased average age at entry has led to increased age of marriage.  Any parent would wish to see their children well-settled before they retire. This isn’t happening if you retire them at 57.

It is said-“one is as old as he feels” and according to me this; apart from the others mentioned above, should also be the criterion to be followed in formulating the retirement policy.

We require young people physically capable of doing work at the right time and in a right perspective... the present officers are not only inefficient but also old fashioned in attitude and practice of governance. Benny, Lecturer, V.J. Coaching Centre

Retirement age of the Government Servants in Nagaland should not be raised; since it will adversely affect a large number of unemployed youths of the State. Unemployment is one of the most serious & chronic matter. In such a predicament, raising of retirement age will not help but rather, the State Government should take tremendous care and initiate alternate measures to resolve the problem of unemployment. It is today a harsh reality that the Naga youths are now turning into alcoholics, drug addicts and joining underground movement because of the government’s inability to provide suitable jobs. More over the high ranking officials in government service tend to function as a routine service and without much efficiency and to raise the age limit to 60 would only make our administration laidback without the energy and zeal required to bring in fresh ideas and concepts into daily governance. It may not be even wrong to say that once an official reach the age of 50 to 55, he or she may have outlived their performance. 

Paradoxically, many young, energetic, talented and trained youths of today are out of work and living in desperation. The desperate youth seek for consolation by living an easy life and prone to become drunkards, extremists, extortionists. These young people also become a parasite to the uncles and aunties of Dimapur and other district Head-quarters.

The most serious matter is the old styled functioning in the offices of the present high ranking officials in our State. They seldom think of innovation or bringing in change in their style of functioning with regard to their respective offices. They are inclined to be idle and lazy in their activities. They often close their eyes over the subordinate officials’ indiscipline, corruption and irregularity. As they reach their sixties their appearance and muscles loosen, their skin shrink, and their ability to read and write gradually get impaired. They lose the vision and ability to take quick decisions; which is often required in matters of public importance. Such a culture only breeds red tape into the system and creates space for corruption to infiltrate into our offices.

In this fast changing world, we require young and trained people who are physically capable of doing the things in right time and right perspective. Today we will find so many well qualified and trained youths who are ready to serve the people of Nagaland. Many of them are qualified having imbibed knowledge and experience from outside the State and most of them are equal to their peers in other advanced places. Whereas we will find the many high ranking officers are only conferred qualifications to be in their office. They are not only inefficient but also old fashioned in their attitude and practice of governance. This is the reason why many of the Government offices lack proper efficiency in carrying out their duties.

Increasing the retirement age will be a great stumbling-block in the way to advancement and progress of our State. Progressive thinking and energetic implementation is possible, if only the concerned person is well trained (in tune with the fast changing world) and healthy both in terms of physical and metal attitude. We find many world famous companies recruiting executives who are below the age group of 35 to 40 years. The competitive companies in their studies found people above forties as unproductive and unenthusiastic in serving the company like young executives. As one crosses the fifties in terms of age, he/she faces much of physical changes; which give rise to anxiety and fear. It does not mean the Government employees should be made to retire at the age of forties or fifties. But I am sure majority of government employees become tired of serving the same office with similar works. At best they linger themselves towards retirement.

When we relate the financial condition of the State, the raise of retirement age will become another constraint for development to take place. A State like Nagaland, which does not have any industrial perspective in the near future and do not have a choice of job creation, one can well imagine how the next generation, will learn to fend for themselves and to remain above the poverty line.

Remember that the rest of the world is eradicating poverty and toiling hard for the development of the people and youths in particular. We will be doomed to the floor if the Government servants’ age is raised. Huge amount of money will be dispersed to a larger number of people for no productive contributions. 

Therefore, it would be, wise from those presently employed people as well as the Government to ponder very seriously on this matter for the better deliverance of living standard of the people of Nagaland. Let the hopeful youth and energetic generation be the servants of the people. They are the ones who can bring in the much needed change and infuse life into our administration.