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Retirement by default

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Mark Easton | 08:29 UK time, Tuesday, 14 July 2009

I am told government ministers have decided that the law which allows employers forcibly to retire workers who reach 65 is "no longer worth the candle".

society_all_ages226b.jpgThe Department for Work and Pensions has published its strategy for an ageing population [657Kb PDF], which includes a pretty strong hint that the "national default retirement age" will be killed off after a review next year.

In the foreword, the prime minister writes:

"Evidence suggests that allowing older people to continue working, unfettered by negative views about ageing, could be a big factor in the success of Britain's businesses and our future economic growth."

DWP Minister Angela Eagle also made the government's position clear:

"It is time to look again at this. Some people prefer to take early retirement, others prefer to keep working. We want to give older people flexible retirement options."
Ministers insist their change of heart is a response to a changed economic landscape. "As Britain's demographics change, it is sensible that we have the debate on what works for business and individuals. The retirement laws need to reflect modern social and economic circumstances," says Ms Eagle. But the employers association, the CBI, is unhappy, describing the move as "disappointing", especially at a time when so many businesses are under pressure.

Many companies use the national retirement age as an opportunity to take stock - to talk to an older worker about whether it is time to move on. Although bosses must consider a request from an employee to work on, currently they are under no obligation to agree. Once you get to 65, you can be told to clear your desk.

There are also concerns that a fixed layer of older, often more expensive workers might prevent younger job-seekers from getting into work.

age_concern_report226.jpgThe government's change of heart follows a long-running battle in the courts in which Age Concern has challenged the national default retirement age as discriminatory. The charity took the case to the European Court of Justice and the challenge continues this week at the High Court.

In an unusual step, the court has agreed that the Equality and Human Rights Commission can intervene.

The government will continue to contest that case but should it lose, hundreds of people who are challenging their enforced retirement will then go ahead.

Age Concern says:

"Older workers make a huge contribution to the economy and will have the skills and experience needed to boost recovery as we come out of recession. Many older people want to be able to continue to work beyond 65. For some this is because they need to boost their pensions or simply pay the bills, but for many it is because they love their jobs and see no need to stop working when they can still do them well."

If the law does change, it won't mean anyone must work past 65, nor will it mean people won't be able to claim their pension. But hundreds of thousands will see it as the chance to keep active, to keep contributing and to keep earning.

Comments

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  • 1. At 08:50am on 14 Jul 2009, jon112uk wrote:

    This is complex and there is a lot of room for serious debate. How do we plan for pensions? Will people be pressured into working?

    However, one principle should be clear....

    With other forms of discrimination (race, gender, disability etc) there is the force of law to compel employers to employ people whether they want them or not.

    If this state of affairs is to continute to apply to the other forms of discrimination then it must also do so to age discrimination.

    Why should the rights of an old person be less important than the rights of any other group?

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  • 2. At 09:01am on 14 Jul 2009, EuroSider wrote:

    With the general population living longer and having a healthier life-style then it only makes sense that people should be allowed to continue working. The choice should be there for the individual.
    I have seen so many people deteriorate after they have retired, and this is simply because working was a major part of their lives. Once it had gone they felt lost, isolated, and rejected.
    There are those, of course, who after retirement find a new lease of life and suddenly find the freedom and opportunity to do all the things they promised themselves if only they had the time.
    So......give us all the choice.

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  • 3. At 09:11am on 14 Jul 2009, John Frewen-Lord wrote:

    Demographics have changed in the last 30 years. People in their 60s (and that includes me) are often no longer just a handful of years from their death, but may have 20 or more years of active life ahead of them. There is no reason why part of that life cannot be in gainful employment, if that is what they want to do.

    And to all those younger people comlaining that older workers are preventing them from getting them from getting jobs, perhaps it's time to look at a form of apprenticeship system, where productive older workers can 'mentor' young trainees. The older person will no doubt still be contributing to the pensions that the younger worker will enjoy eventually, so this can be very much a two-way street.

    Finally, the CBI's response is deeply concerning. When employers talk to an older employee about 'moving on' - moving on to what, precisely? That is merely a euphamism for saying your services are dispensible, get out. Hopefully we live in a more enlightened age.

    There is precious little (actually, just about nothing) that the current government has done right in the last 12 years, but this may just be one thing. I am not however holding my breath that they won't screw it up somehow when (or if) they get around to enacting this proposed law.

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  • 4. At 09:48am on 14 Jul 2009, delminister wrote:

    ah so the few jobs that may become available will be harder fought over and sadly unemployment in the younger sectors will increase.
    looking at this idea from this mad government they are trying to gain the grey vote for the next election.
    but the whiplash to this will be the number of people forced to retire in recent years will apply to have the decision reversed or go for compensation, that will cost the taxpayer yet more money and that is this governments main objective to break this countries economy beyond repair.

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  • 5. At 10:13am on 14 Jul 2009, HardWorkingHobbes wrote:

    In my company my boss is past retirement age and has decided to carry on working.
    If he retired then my manager would be likely to get a promotion to the bosses job, I would likely get a promotion to the managers job, the person below me would get promoted to my job and we would hire a new youngster to take the lowest job.

    As my boss isn't retiring none of us get a promotion and the young school lever is still out of work.

    Whats better, having a 65 year-old working and a 18 year old unemployed or a 65 year old retired and the 18 year old working and paying taxes?


    On a side note as we're talking about age discrimination,
    How come someone aged under 65 has a tax-free personal allowance of £5435 but someone over 65 has one of £9030?
    Isn't that age discrimination which has been outlawed by the EU?

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  • 6. At 10:27am on 14 Jul 2009, jon112uk wrote:

    5. At 10:13am on 14 Jul 2009, HardWorkingHobbes wrote:
    "...Whats better, having a 65 year-old working and a 18 year old unemployed or a 65 year old retired and the 18 year old working and paying taxes?..."
    ====================================

    Neither one. They shouldn't be allowed to discriminate against an 18 year old OR a 65 year old.

    Why do people think it is better for a 65 year old to be unemployed?

    Would anyone find it acceptable for employers to take a view that it was better for black people to be unemployed? Or women? Or gay men?

    There is too great an acceptance of this one form of discrimination.

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  • 7. At 11:03am on 14 Jul 2009, HardWorkingHobbes wrote:

    #6
    Why do people think it is better for a 65 year old to be unemployed?
    -----

    Because if a teenager spends their first couple of working years as unemployed then the chance they will remain unemployed for the rest of their life significantly increases, as does the cost to the taxpayer.

    Is it a fair society when we expect the old and infirm to go out to work while the young, fit and healthy sit around doing nothing?

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  • 8. At 11:15am on 14 Jul 2009, mpnemesis wrote:

    One way for employers to get around the forcible retirement of staff might be to give people time-limited contracts, a bit like footballers. That would create more uncertainty for many people and would make it easier for employers to get rid of dead wood or downsize without the need for redundancy payments. People who think enforced retirement at a particular age is discriminatory should beware the potential unintended consequences of what they wish for. The alternative might be a lot worse.

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  • 9. At 11:18am on 14 Jul 2009, Ernie wrote:

    This strikes me as another cynical move to allow the government to shirk their responsibility to keep people at a decent standard of living after retirement, by having us all work until we drop.

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  • 10. At 11:20am on 14 Jul 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    DWP Minister Angela Eagle also made the government's position clear:

    "It is time to look again at this. Some people prefer to take early retirement, others prefer to keep working. We want to give older people flexible retirement options."


    "others prefer to keep working" have no choice but to continue work to escape the poverty line. Like my dad 67 last weekend and cant afford to retire.....

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  • 11. At 11:24am on 14 Jul 2009, DeniseCullum222 wrote:

    So bin men and those who do hard manuel labour used to be the only type of job for many people in this country once as many people do not make their 70th which is good for the Govenment as they then do not have to pay the state pittance and any insurance companies have taken out on you is theirs and they do not have to share it, as all companies will have to take out insurance, and as the BBC gets ride of older women but not men is this going to be to stop. All this is so that kids can spend their lives in education will their mothers work all hours so that their older siblings over fifteen and fathers can go and fight war for the Govenment who now owns their lives and and their families.

    Were has all the NI gone that my generation was told would look after us in our old age we have childhood and now we have no old age we can work till we drop but the chosen ones who think this all up will not have that problem their children will go to fee paying schools with their own types their wives will support their men who will retired when they chose 50 if you are Fred Goodwin how old was Thatcher when she went? she was allowed all her pension and has not got to sell her house or assets for her care why is that?

    And brown and Blair both came up through the NHS and free schooling but this is not allowed for anyone else even through most people in this country have paid through the nose for it Brown and his cronies want to pay for the wars well they want us to do it without objection so we call it something else. Blair and Brown love the USA system of paying for everything, or you have nothing and no say or power. But then Britian has never been a democratic country it says it is to make sure we keep voting and then we can be blamed for all the things that go wrong, through the media.

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  • 12. At 12:17pm on 14 Jul 2009, jon112uk wrote:

    7. At 11:03am on 14 Jul 2009, HardWorkingHobbes wrote:
    #6
    Why do people think it is better for a 65 year old to be unemployed?
    -----

    Because if a teenager spends their first couple of working years as unemployed then the chance they will remain unemployed for the rest of their life significantly increases, as does the cost to the taxpayer.
    ================================

    It's costing the taxpayer for old people as well. That's why they are wanting to do this - the tax/NI people thought they were paying to ensure they were covered when they got older is taken in one day and handed out the next - this government doesn't have the money to fund old people.

    Is there genuinely a long term shortage of jobs for young people, not just temporarily during this recession? That's not what I see most of the time - until a few months ago we had thousands of vacancies unfilled until a hard working Pole or Czech guy filled them. How come we need to import hundreds of thousands of workers each year if young people are so short of jobs and keen to work?

    But either way this idea that you can discriminate against people because they are old will have to stop - would you be willing to put up some dodgy argument as to why you think black people or gay men should be forced to leave their jobs to free it up for someone 'more deserving'?


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  • 13. At 12:23pm on 14 Jul 2009, afcone wrote:

    I think we'll look back and see that the baby boomer generation was one of the most selfish generations in history. They've benefited from free education and final salary pensions, whilst denying it to the generation behind them so that they don't have to pay the full price for them, and they've voted for parties that follow the mantra that high house prices are a good thing (thus being beneficiaries of the largest inter-generational wealth transfer in history). Now, having benefited from promotions arising from the enforced retirement age of those before them, they don't want to accept the downside.

    This will mean poorer promotion prospects for the younger generations, who are already facing higher taxes and larger debts due to the massive self-interest of the boomers.

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  • 14. At 12:44pm on 14 Jul 2009, threnodio wrote:

    Does it really matter?

    For health reasons, I have decided to retire as soon as possible. I have been waiting since April for a Pension Forecast, my emails recieve an automated reply saying they are introducing a new system and they try to deal with everything in 15 days. The last one was one month ago.

    In the meantime, my partner wants to continue working but has so far lost 3 new contracts because she stiull has not received a new CRB which she asked for seven weeks ago.

    The whole service is collapsing under it's own weight and has degenerated to a point of utter incompetence. So ministers can decide whatever they like secure in the knowledge that the chances of their agencies after doing anything about it a close to zero.

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  • 15. At 12:55pm on 14 Jul 2009, ramalamabangbang wrote:

    #5 The tax-free allowance for under 65s is £6475 this tax year, 2009/10. £5435 is old hat, 2008/09. The £9490 (not £9035) allowance for over 65s is also income-dependent (if your occupational pensions total more than £22,900 a year, you revert to £6475).

    And no, it's not discrimination. It's allowing people that have saved all their lives to enjoy their retirement a little more.

    #9 The only cynicism I can see is spewing forth from your keyboard. This move is a reduction in the "nanny state", it gives people the freedom they so desire, doesn't it?

    No defined maximum working age is a good step forward in my view, as it does allow people a choice. However, I see the point that people staying in work longer will block younger people from moving onto/up the ladder.

    A compromise needs to be sought, maybe that responsibilities are decreased from age 65, should you stay in work (e.g. you can be required to take a lower-paid position, general manager to supervisor, within the company).

    #12 I believe that the British youth sometimes have the mindset that certain jobs are 'beneath' them. They'd almost never fruit pick, sweep streets or collect rubbish for the local council.

    And you're also correct, JSA and State Pension both cost the taxpayer here and now.

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  • 16. At 4:35pm on 14 Jul 2009, jon112uk wrote:

    13. At 12:23pm on 14 Jul 2009, afcone wrote:

    "...I think we'll look back and see that the baby boomer generation was one of the most selfish generations in history. They've benefited from free education and final salary pensions, whilst denying it to the generation behind them so that they don't have to pay the full price for them...."
    =====================

    ...and along the way we've paid most of our earnings in tax so that the next generation can spend 11 years plus in education, but still can't read and write at the end of it. Then we've paid some more tax so they can live on benefits, leaving plenty of free time to attend G20 riots and climate camps. Fortunately there was loads of young people in Poland (who can read, write AND count) who were willing to pop over and do some work to keep things going.

    Meanwhile, I still don't agree with forcing anyone out of a job on discriminatory grounds: female, black, disabled....or old.

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  • 17. At 8:46pm on 14 Jul 2009, gordgey wrote:

    Another way of looking at it is that some people define their lives by their jobs. When they are mandatorily forced to retire, it leaves a massive hole in their lives, and can lead to a downturn in their health and mental state. For those who have no family, they will spend the rest of their lives potentially on their own or with very little contact with other people, which in turn can hasten conditions such as dementia. If they are still fit enough to work, let them carry on doing the job. One lady where I work is in her early seventies, and she does her job just as well as the 18 year old who sits next to her.

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  • 18. At 9:31pm on 14 Jul 2009, Secratariat wrote:

    There are many people who would argue that our schools suffer because many, if not most, teachers go from school to sixth form to to teacher training college and back into the classroom with little or no experience of the working world.

    Maybe we could solve two problems here by encouraging people over 50 to take up teaching.
    They could then share their years of experience with the future generations and would have the challenge of a new career that they could stick with until they're ready to retire, whatever age that may be.

    It may not be the answer for everyone but it could be one option.

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  • 19. At 11:40pm on 14 Jul 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    This is just another government trick to raise the retirement age now that they've stolen all of our money by giving it away through corporate welfare. Let seniors work till they drop what does it matter as long as Obama's Mafia cronies are paid off.

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  • 20. At 01:44am on 15 Jul 2009, hack-round wrote:

    Why cannot we get to grips with the fact that we have to stop picking at one bit of a problem, finding a short term cheap fix only to find it has created another problem elsewhere?

    We have by virtue of growing numbers set against polarized resources managed in short term greed looming problems in every area of our socio economic model.

    Time therefore while there is a need to reform in some prominent areas to review the entire model and design something fit for purpose for the next 50 years one in which we start to take responsibility for managing what we have, what we do and who to.

    Messing with care this week, pensions next week, carbon emissions next month, bankers in October, health in November, ocean resources in December and carbon emissions in January is a recipe for disaster. wWo is most affected by this tinkering the giant tolerant sponge of the silent majority. But will they be silent for ever?

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  • 21. At 05:14am on 15 Jul 2009, kitincal wrote:

    Here in California there is already a law that protects against age discrimination and thankfully so! I have a number of colleagues in their seventies and one who is eighty-two and still contributing their experience to the company. They can retire any time they want but for various reasons (enjoys the job, needs the income, likes the camaraderie, etc.)they choose not to do so. I can see the argument that if you have some particularly obnoxious person it might be hard to get rid of them but there are other laws that can take care of that. As for keeping the younger people out of a job - hogwash! There are plenty of jobs but today's youngsters do not want to start at the bottom and work their way up as we had to. I started out cleaning toilets and am now a manager in a world -renowned library. In between that I became an apprentice, surviving on a pittance. I've earned the right to do a job I enjoy, at least all the time I give good service. As for the idiot who stated that we baby-boomers are the most selfish, may I remind him that we had to work really hard to bring Britain out of the post-war depression and into the relatively easy molly-coddled society of today! Let's see you with your ration book! Yours, a Brit in L,A

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  • 22. At 09:59am on 15 Jul 2009, jamesinpiter wrote:

    #13 Has it absolutely spot on.

    But unfortuntely this is the economics of politics. In a democracy politicians effectively have to buy votes. This means identifying the largest group that benefits most from a policy, while upsetting the smallest group possible - whether that be in terms of money or cultural values.

    If you look at governement policy since the early 1960s it's all been aimed at the Baby Boomer group - because they are huge in numbers releative to both those who came before and those who are coming after.

    To give examples of this; Social policy was relaxed in the 1960s because the Baby boomers were young and had just got the vote. Young people are usually more socially liberal. But as you get older you usually get socially more conservative - hence the illiberal policies that have become ever more prevelevant over the last 15 years or so. Likewise University - grants introduced in the 60s, but in the 90s the burden switched from the taxpayer to the student. Housing - social housing in the 60's / serious real terms house price inflation since the 80s, followed by bailouts by the working young (both nothing more than an intergeneration shift in wealth from the young, without capital, to the old with capital). I could go on almost indefinitely - pensions, suggestions of local income tax rather than council tax etc. The university example is the classic. The Baby boomers had the previous generation pay for their education, but they didn't pay for the next generation.

    Anyone who can't see that the Baby Boomers are the most pampered and selfish generation in history (and why not if you can be) really hasn't bothered to look at any of the facts.

    The issue is what comes next. This is an issue that seems to be entirely disregarded by both politicians and the media, who are all a little older. Certainly my generation and those a little younger will have a significantly lower standard of living than our parents. We will get the opportunity to buy our houses later, if at all. We will work significantly longer - probably 10 years or so, on average. And we will generally have far more insecure lives.

    Still these things go in circles. Presuming my generation replaces itself (very much in question, given the insecurity of our lives), when our children are in their early 30s they will benefit from the Baby Boomers passing on, and the resultant mass release of capital - especially in the form of housing, resulting in a collapse in the real prices of homes. It may well be that with my generation paying the penance for the Baby Boomers, our children will inherit a balanced society and economy.

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  • 23. At 11:19am on 15 Jul 2009, omegaDallion wrote:

    The govt. is not concerned with the well-being of individuals, and never has been. They are concerned with the running of the country and, of course, money. If you think otherwise, think about war, and how individual lives are thought of as being expendable. Think about how secret tests are carried out on whole populations without the knowledge or consent of those people (eg. Porton Down's well documented tests in the 50's and 60's).
    This is the first step in a "softly softly" approach in raising the pensionable age. With people living longer these days it's costing them a fortune. Wait and see, in two to three years there will be an announcement that "it makes sense to raise the pensionable age to 70".
    This is the way the govt. works these days.

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  • 24. At 2:37pm on 15 Jul 2009, winifa wrote:

    I dont know why we are at all suprise by this! Back in the year 2000 I attended a forum headed by the department of work and pensions with a view to looking at the savings gap, the group was simply split into the three parts and each taken to a seperate room where the brief given was to solve how the government could keep people working beyond 75yrs of age.
    It shouldnt also come as a shock that along with personal accounts and auto enrolment it is part of this governments strategy to reduce peoples ability to claim benefits.

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  • 25. At 11:27pm on 15 Jul 2009, SheffTim wrote:

    Simply in order to keep paying the bills I suspect I will have to keep working for as long as I am capable.
    I actually welcome the ending of a official retirement age; though I can foresee some difficult instances (and potential test-cases) arising where employees are clearly (to everyone else) too old to continue doing their job effectively, yet insist that they are. I just hope I'm not one of them.

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  • 26. At 3:29pm on 16 Jul 2009, laguerre wrote:

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  • 27. At 3:57pm on 16 Jul 2009, laguerre wrote:

    At 55 I was told some of the global shareholders of my multinational employer did not like the age profile of the European workforce. There were too many aged over 50's (yes over 50) and some had to go. I volunteered to go, got my wish and am very happy. However those closest to retirement age did not get paid off with voluntary redundancy. Waiting for retirement was cheaper for the employer than paying them off. So I might be forgiven for thinking those CBI employers who want to keep the retirement age at 65 are looking to continue to avoid paying off those older employees they want to "move on".

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  • 28. At 8:47pm on 16 Jul 2009, AbramMan wrote:

    Why would you want to work past 65 anyway?

    I have worked all my life and worked darned hard too.

    I dont want to work anymore.

    I AM KNACKERED!

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  • 29. At 6:03pm on 17 Jul 2009, archoptimist wrote:

    At the age of 55 I was informed that the Company had to "re-profile" its work force to comply with legilslation..a load of rubbish because they were talking about meeting ethnic and gender quotas through positive discrimination which was and is illegal. I intimated that I intended to cause a stink about it, which enabled me to negotiate a much better severance deal than my contract, but really had decided to go anyway. I set up my own consultancy with a couple of ex colleagues and never looked back...even did some lucrative work for the Company that dispensed with us. Now in my late 60s, I have no intention of retiring and will carry on doing as much as a I want to do until I fall off my perch.

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  • 30. At 12:19pm on 18 Jul 2009, wychcraft wrote:

    Well I think retirement should be a matter of choice, if minimum retirement age was set at 63 then it should just be the earliest you could draw your pension not a compulsory retirement age. Most people will have different circumstances for taking retirement at different stages in life, dictated by health, finances etc. So pensions need to start at a minimum level then adjust upwards the longer you work. Employers would then be able to enhance pensions of those they would like to retire early. The problem though is really a lack of pension fund for state pensions and health service, its not really a national insurance its just a national disgrace.

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  • 31. At 01:39am on 19 Jul 2009, bonehead_2006 wrote:

    The funny thing is that all those who want to work beyond 60-65+ all have cushy office jobs while the rest of us have back-breaking work so if I can bail out at 55, here I come!!

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  • 32. At 06:26am on 19 Jul 2009, BGarvie wrote:

    Brown's viscous attack on private and company pension funds in 1997 was the blue touch paper that lit the fuse that destroyed a once successful pensions industry. Brown has naturally denied responsibility, like everything he does, but will regret this mistake. Pensioners will never forgive him for stealing their comfortable retirements. Saving into a pension scheme for over 40 years should produce some reward. But since he interfered, final salary schemes have been closing like the falling autumnal leaves. Brown is a cretin and recognised by many as unfit for the duties of high office. He will witness their displeasure sometime next June 2010 when he will be unceremoniously booted out of office.
    (Written by a pensioner).

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  • 33. At 7:10pm on 19 Jul 2009, KeithRodgers wrote:

    Employers use the 65 rule to clear out more experienced and hence more expensive workers, they subsititue them with younger workers.
    Ageism is a huge problem in the UK especially when the line manager is a fresh faced younger graduate who sees old people as a hinderance.
    The reality is its the older more experienced or seasoned workers that keep most businesses running well and profitable.
    Its only when these employee retire does the real contribution to the business become evident.What do you expect from a country that judges everybody now by how many certificates they have got and totally ignores experience!
    The individual should have te right to decide if they want to go or stay not the employer after all its their retirement!

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  • 34. At 6:19pm on 20 Jul 2009, Jim Currie wrote:

    I thought the people who govern us were clever. It has taken them all this time to see the sense in what many of us have been telling them for years. Tony Blair put off this moment when he was in power. The present PM now sees electoral defeat looming and has now deserted his Trade Union friends for the favours of the grey vote.
    Surely it does not take genious to understand that if a person continues to feel needed and he or she is actively contributing to society; he or she will be healthier, stay fit longer, will continue to be a net contributor to the UK house-hold purse while making a much smaller demand on the NHS? A win-win situation if ever there was one. A sure lose-lose way is to continue with this 'us and them' attitude. The same goes for most other attitudes in human relationship.

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  • 35. At 09:03am on 21 Jul 2009, Andrew___ wrote:

    I'm sure that the government would love to do away with the standard retirement age. It's a necessary step in removing the state pension. Lets face it, if everyone's still expected to work when they're 65, 75, 95, who's going to be getting the pension?

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