Retirement is a well-deserved reward for decades of toiling in obscurity; it is an acknowledgement of your dedication and loyalty to society, an expression of gratitude for your unselfishness, and a nod to your commitment to the public good. Retirement is a time to walk off into the sunset, your head held high and blissfully conscious of the fact that during those long years slaving away as a public servant, you fulfilled your part of the social contract.
But, retirement isn’t all dandy and glamorous, not when you are pushed into it with your mental and physical faculties still intact. In Ghana civil servants who have reached the “ripe old age” of 60 are being put to pasture — forcefully retired — despite their ability to continue working for many more years.
Ghana’s retirement age is a huge joke, an absurdity; consider this for a moment: my older sister retired from the ministry of health two years ago at a relatively young age of 60. When she told me I was flabbergasted. “You retired at the age of 60?” I asked her, incredulously.
My sister is not retirement material, at least not yet. She is still years away from calling it quits and the evidence is overwhelming; she is full of energy and stamina, and all her faculties have not deteriorated one bit.
The absurdity of Ghana’s early retirement policy is that it was poorly thought out and not carefully weighed to determine its impact on the civil service and the country’s finances. All the retirement policy has done since its implementation, is to push out able-bodied men and women from the civil service, men and women who still possess the mental acumen, experience and loyalty built over years, to continue to contribute to the development of the country.
It is abundantly clear that those planners who formulated Ghana’s retirement policy apparently did not look ahead to times when the world would change on so many fronts. One of those remarkable changes that has been so transformative is the tremendous improvement in health-care delivery. Modern medicine has dramatically impacted life as we know it.
Advanced medical methods of treating diseases that were once killers have prolonged lives not only in the rich industrialized north, but also in the poor global south. People are living longer. Against this rather encouraging background, pegging Ghana’s retirement age at 60 is clearly not in alignment with our fast changing world.
The message we should be sending our policy makers is this: nobody wants to forced into retirement at an early age, and 60-years on planet earth is comparatively young these days. Why should people be compelled to pack it in at age 60 when they are still capable of getting up every morning and heading off to work.
Arguments advanced by proponents of early retirement in Ghana run the gamut; room must be created for young people to join the civil service and tapping new talent for public service. That is all well and good; young people have to work so they will have the resources to feed, house and clothe their families and to contribute their quota to the development of Ghana. But what good does it do to the nation and to the individuals who have been forced to retire against their will?
Let’s be clear-eyed here; early retirement clearly has its drawbacks; young people newly recruited into the civil service miss out on learning the “tricks of the trade” from seasoned professionals who have been forced to walk away with vast amounts of experience and knowledge that they could very well have transferred to their younger colleagues.
But more troubling is the fact that we are dealing our wobbly economy a bad hand by making early pension payments to those who could clearly have put in more years of work before cashing their first pension check. This is money that could go towards shoring up our weak finances. No wonder therefore that we have a huge public debt and consequently plead with international capital lenders to give us a helping hand.
Nations are revising their retirement age with most pushing it towards the late 60s. It is time authorities in Ghana did the same, our retirement age should be revised upward and the French offer a good example of how not to peg your retirement age at 55 and complement it with a generous pension system.
In 2008 when the global economy implode under duress from the United States mortgage market, the French government decided it was time to revise its age-old and iron-clad retirement policy. France has powerful unions and they were not going to back away. They protested vociferously, but the government stood its ground and pushed the retirement age to 65 and will gradually increase it to 67 years by the year 2023.
France is a relatively wealthy nation but when confronted with immense economic difficulties, the government acted prudently to avert a potential disaster. We should do likewise and take hard decisions that would ensure that we don’t continue to drain our meager financial resources to dole out monthly pensions checks to those who could be working (early retirees).