Centenarians

Rafael Puyol. Vicepresident. IE Foundation

13 September 2011

Raising the age of retirement is as controversial as it is necessary. Not only for economic reasons, but also because it means that professionals with more experience can remain active.

The debate about delaying the retirement age has cropped up again in Parliament, and yet again the subject has been the target of criticism. As I have said before, as long as it is a fine-tuned proposal, covering all exceptions, and is economically viable and socially fair, I don’t consider it outrageous at all. In fact, I view it as a somewhat timid initiative. People are living longer than ever, and hence start working later in life as well. It therefore seems logical to delay the end of one’s ‘official’ working life. And I am not defending the extension of one’s working life for reasons derived from the imbalance between the working population and those who are state dependent, which will complicate pension payments even more in the future if these measures aren’t taken. It is not that I am ignoring this line of reasoning, but rather that my arguments are not of an exclusively economic nature. I am inclined to think much more about the sheer waste when a society dispenses of its ‘senior citizens’ prematurely and inconveniently, because at 65 they still have a long life ahead of them (including their working life).

The argument is valid for all jobs, but it becomes especially relevant for those occupations which required intensive training to undertake the job in the first place and a constant need to update skills throughout one’s working life. These ‘older people’ possess skills, abilities and experiences which a simple administrative measure just bins without further ado.

And I know so many people who are in that situation, that I think it’s only fair to stick up for them. I’m sure my argument could make centenarians the likes of Oscar Niemeyer, Francisco Ayala, Pepín Bello and Antonio Garrigues smile in support of my argument, along with many others who worked or continue working well beyond the official retirement age. I’m not asking for that much for everyone, but just a bit longer for those who wish to continue being officially employed - and the law or businesses and institutions simply won’t let them.

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