Political Promise

More older workers, less younger blood: Why axing the retirement age could be bad for our generation

In Vicky Wong on July 30, 2010 at 11:30 am

By Vicky Wong

The government have recently announced the scrapping of the retirement age, meaning many happy workers aged 65 and over will not be forced to retire. The government plans aim to boost the economy and was made in light of the ageing population and the number of people living longer.

But if the healthier and able-bodied grandmas and grandpas of today are able to stay on to work a little bit longer, then great; many admit to getting bored at home, and genuinely enjoy working with and meeting people, but what of the younger generation? Youth and graduate unemployment has been an issue in the news as of late, the axing of the pension age could potentially increase graduate unemployment, most particularly in areas where few qualifications are required.

One of the issues raised by critics of the axing of the pension age is that it means that firms will have to adjust work practices (such as health and safety) more to those who are above 65, and the issue of retraining has appeared on the radar. An article in The Times a month or so ago raised concerns that many graduates were leaving university without the basic literacy and numeracy skills, and companies were wasting money on retraining and re-educating graduates on these basic skills that they should have mastered at GCSE.

The same article also said that many graduates were lacking in basic customer service skills, which is vital for interaction within the workplace. The issue here is that employers, regardless of the workplace, may be unwilling to take on younger graduates because it would take too much time and money to hire them over keeping on their more experienced colleagues.

Given the shortage of jobs available on the job market, if older employees stay on in the workplace, surely this would make it even harder for young people to get onto the job ladder.

If the number of older people are staying on to work in what we have deemed as “unskilled jobs”, this would mean that younger people who have very few qualifications would make it difficult to find work. With government initiatives to keep people off benefits and bring them into work, this may be altogether inconsistent given the scarcity of jobs.

I have relatives who work in Human Resources, and a few years ago, young blood was all the rage for enthusing more energy, enthusiasm and ideas into the workplace. But times have changed, companies are less willing to take on the risk of younger people who are still wet behind the ears and as 50% of the young adult population set about to graduate with university degrees, it is becoming hard to differentiate between applicants who are suitable for any particular job.

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