The Canadian government announced its federal budget yesterday. A big snore for most people around the globe, including Canadians themselves, but this time there was great hoo-ha and media buzz. The reason? Pensions.
The big news from the country’s Finance Minister Jim Flaherty: the eligible age for Old Age Security for all Canadian citizens is being moved from 65 to 67; as well, those who work in the public sector will have to work to 65 (instead of 60) to collect their pensions; plus, pension benefits for those who work for the federal government will be cut.
We weren’t that shocked. Quite frankly, it was inevitable – a) like the rest of the planet, Canada is dealing with an aging population or one that has a longer life expectancy; and, b) the U.S. and Australia have already put in place policies to move their pension age to 67. Plus, we know that at least 70 percent of the North American population of mature workers plans to continue working into their ‘retirement years’ anyway. What is surprising, however – and what hasn’t been reported – is what little thought has gone into the idea.
The same day the budget was released, an article in the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail noted “Pension expert Jack Mintz, a member of an economic panel that advises the Finance Minister, said incentives to work longer are needed in an age when Canadians are living much longer than before.” Incentives? Moving the goalposts of retirement age and cutting pensions are not what we’d call incentives. These measures will certainly force people to work longer, but they are not the type of tactics that could be seen as an enticement.
Maybe, instead, the Canadian Finance Minister should have been listening to the advice of Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum. According to this expert, “ageing is widely seen as one of the most significant risks to global prosperity in the decades ahead,” however, he adds, “of all global issues, [it is] one of the most amenable to risk management.” As he sees it, ”The good news is that if we act now, in a creative and proactive manner, we will have the greatest chance of realizing the potential benefits of the ageing trend – such as utilizing the immense social capital of older people.” Nicely put.
As opposed to measures that simply force citizens to work longer (like some penance, as if the older population is a burden on society), what people and governments everywhere need are policies and programs that encourage and support people to work to 67 and beyond – for example: those that entice companies to attract, invest and retain older workers; protect mature workers and aid them in finding or maintaining jobs; inspire universities and colleges to create programs for lifelong learning (and assist citizens in taking part); and, promote entrepreneurialism for new business creation.
Although we didn’t hear any ideas or incentives like this from the Canadian Finance Minister, these are the kind of announcements we need to hear from governments now. Small thinking simply pushes the age of retirement a few years or slashes pensions, but forward thinking could unleash unlimited potential – and not just for economies, but for society on the whole.
Last cut: The bottom line – if governments do not put in place policies that support the idea of reaping the benefits of an aging population, then (just as the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper sings in this video) we’ll have to get by with a little help from our friends.
Next week’s Pulse: The beauty of leaders who get it.
In April, we’re launching our first 12-week course! If you haven’t already ordered your copy of RIPE: Rich, Rewarding Work After 50, there’s still time. We’d love you to be part of this virtual Ripe Circle. (And if you haven’t pulled together your own Ripe Circle – a support team cum cheerleading squad – take a look at Pulse No. 2, February 17, 2012, for details.)
In the budget speech, the Canadian government’s Conservative agenda was also made clear, including that it will become much more selective about immigrants, looking for newcomers who are, first and foremost, young. (Sigh.)
By all means, let’s call on government and institutions to catch up with the major shift that’s taking place right under their noses. And in the meantime, let’s focus on the development of people over 50. Let’s think about our potential as individuals, certainly (what possibilities do you see – or dream about – for yourself?). And what are the benefits to society of millions of active, engaged, ripened citizens? How will we contribute? Let us count the ways.
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Julia Moulden and Trisse Loxley have been writing and editing for the media and corporate sectors for a combined 50 years. Today, they’re reconnecting with their generation and helping their clients engage with Boomers, too.