Saturday, November 23, 2013

Retire at 70?

The Australian Productivity Commission has recommended lifting the retirement age to 70.

There was once a time when the age of retirement was gradually lowered (some members of my profession were able to retire at 55). Now it's getting higher: it's officially 67 now with calls for it to go to 70.

There are a few political points to be drawn from this:

i) The idea of liberal progress contained within it the idea that material standards of living would always rise and that people would have increasing amounts of leisure time. I can even remember speculation that there might be too much leisure time and not enough work to keep people busy. It's going to be harder for liberals to sell the idea of progress when the numbers go the wrong way.

ii) The welfare state is a double edged sword. Yes, you might draw benefits from state welfare, but to fund it you might find yourself working well into your 70s. For instance, is it really just to make a poor person work well into his 70s so that Tony Abbott can fund his incredibly generous maternity scheme (in which a wealthy woman would be paid up to $75,000 over six months)? Similarly, would such a person want to work into his 70s to cover the costs of paying prostitutes to visit disabled people, as has been proposed as part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme?

Someone has to pay for the welfare state and the answer of those in state power seems to be to make people work longer rather than to rein in spending.

iii) The welfare state is not such a reliable means of support. It would have been better if people had been told early in the piece that they would be better off looking to support themselves in retirement.

As an example of how unreliable state support can be, the Daily Mail ran a piece about British women who married Greek men and went to live in Greece. They had children, but then went through divorces. The Greek state wasn't able to afford the welfare to support them and so they returned to Britain, but they were no longer eligible for benefits there either and, without family support, became reliant on charity.


  1. Do you suppose a major newspaper would print a column by an angry misogynist who said that "the" is a "pronoun"? Well, maybe the grammatical error would pass, what with modern editorial standards; but the angry misogyny, no. Only the powerless are given a platform. That's how we know they are powerless.

  2. I hope this won't push through. This rule would be just so mean.