Last week, Ontario’s Ministry of Education promised an effort to help new teachers secure jobs, which included limiting the number of days a retired teacher can act as a substitute, thereby allowing more teaching opportunities for the newbies. But this situation is not unique to education. As retirees or near-retirees recognize their vitality, fear of boredom or financial uncertainty during retirement, more and more jobs are being monopolized by this older generation of workers.
Many retirees either defer retirement altogether or choose to double dip, collecting their pension and continuing to work as contracting consultants. It’s simple: work six months minus one day and pension pay-outs remain unaffected. Not only are these retirees collecting a pension, they are also robbing younger workers of opportunities. Why is that? Well, there are many reasons I suppose.
For one, individuals in their sixties are feeling much more vital than generations past at that age. Decades ago, individuals enjoyed a mere ten years, or so, after retirement before death. Now most live long past those precious ten years post-retirement. They have the health and energy but also the knowledge and experience to be retained by employers.
The fear of boredom in retirement also scares some into staying put. Many of them still identify so strongly with their career and worked so diligently building it, that they did not pick up any hobbies along the way. The absence of extra-curricular causes them to feel lost and lacking purpose come retirement.
There is the retiree whose life brought forth unexpected events (divorce, illness, etc) and therefore needs to continue working to pay the mortgage or help support a relative. Then, of course, there are those who spent a lifetime living beyond their means and are now living the financial consequences of their past decisions. And, let us not forget, the few who have an unquenchable financial thirst and will never feel that they have enough money to retire comfortably.
So how is this workforce of hangers-on affecting all of us? For one, employers are paying higher wages to a retiree than to a newbie with less experience, which arguably increases the price of goods and services an organization provides. In another sense, retirees who keep working continue to earn and spend money, consequently pouring more back into the economy.
Perhaps there is no point to lament this situation because it is this generation’s new reality and we need to start finding ways to work with potential retirees, not against them. After all, the older generation passes on its knowledge and experience, an investment in human capital, which contributes to economic growth. And, desperation brings innovation; meaning that with age-of-retirement employees remaining in the workforce longer, the younger workers are being forced to be increasingly creative, resulting in a more innovative workforce. We’re entering a new renaissance of the entrepreneur, and the older employees of the workforce may just be the ones we have to thank for this economic catalyst.