Retirement linked to vexing issue of immigration
Increasing the retirement age to 70 could reduce the need for immigration as a growth strategy, David Burt said on Friday.
The Premier told the House of Assembly: “Those who simply say we need more people living and working in Bermuda do a disservice to that argument when they fail to include those men and women in this community age 65 and over who can and want to continue working.”
He added: “They, too, will continue to contribute to the economic activities in Bermuda.”
MPs debated a motion on the issue after Mr Burt tabled a report from the Labour Advisory Committee recommending that the retirement age should be increased from 65 to 70 over a ten-year period. People would retain the option to retire at 65.
Mr Burt noted the Progressive Labour Party had pledged in the Throne Speech last year to “revise mandatory retirement age to take account of longer life span, the necessity to add additional stability to pension funds and to promote greater choice among the working population”.
He said the average life expectancy for Bermuda had climbed from 71 to 81.3 over the past 30 years.
Mr Burt added: “Living longer, and certainly beyond the age of 65, is a demographic reality that must now be married with economic reality.”
He added that moving the age of retirement would ensure equality in recruitment, hiring compensation, benefits, training and working conditions.
Mr Burt said: “Age discrimination is real in Bermuda.
“It is not just for those persons who may reach the age of 65 and then wish to retire, it is for those in their 50s, who may have been let go from their previous job, and who want to work, and who may be qualified and are not given the job because of their age, because they are 55 or close to retirement.”
Derrick Burgess, the Deputy Speaker of the House, agreed that age discrimination would be addressed through an increased retirement age, but said it may need to be done on a case-by-case basis.
Mr Burgess said a policy now exists to allow people in public service to continue working beyond 65, provided they have medical clearance, but that it was not being fully enforced.
He said only 14 employees were now employed in public service beyond the age of 65.
Mr Burgess said: “That is ridiculous. It’s shameful, embarrassing to have a policy just for show. The way we have treated seniors in this country is criminal.
“You are competent at 64, but come 65 all of a sudden you become incompetent.”
He pointed out that the Bermuda Hospitals Board had access to this policy, but was not using it even with a shortage of nurses worldwide.
Mr Burgess said: “You are telling nurses they have to go at 65, but you have doctors in surgery at 70. It makes no sense. It makes a mockery of the whole system.”
Craig Cannonier, the Leader of the Opposition, said he supported the motion, but that there was a need for early retirement planning.
Mr Cannonier also said a balance must be created because young people also face age discrimination.
One Bermuda Alliance MP Patricia Gordon-Pamplin pointed to the importance of job creation and her colleague, Jeanne Atherden, said that the Government should make sure that seniors are prepared for the jobs that will be available.
Rolfe Commissiong, the PLP backbencher, said that Bermuda was struggling with a “demographic winter” of an ageing population and a low birthrate.
He said: “This issue is going to transform Bermuda in a way that hardly anyone can imagine.”
Mr Commissiong added that as more people retire there will be extra pressure on pensions and healthcare. He said: “There are no easy options left for Bermuda in a lot of key matters.”