There’s nothing like a break by the sea, the quiet relaxing walk on the promenade with only the raucous calls of the gulls to punctuate the rhythmic hissing of the waves over the stony beach, the brisk wind blowing onshore that makes you shiver even in September, and the quiet whirring of the mobility scooters as they whizz past you on the promenade, nearly taking your shins out in the process.
For the seaside towns of the south coast of England, long favoured as a retirement resort by the English, are excellent places to view the grey generation in action. This, say the experts, is the future, towns where the elderly are in the majority. And, as I looked at the town, it was hard to imagine that any of the policymakers had actually bothered to do the same. The slow-paced lifestyle of most of the inhabitants has a relaxing, but soporific effect on the overall town and it is impossible to imagine that a large-scale return to work of these pensioners would be either effective or indeed desirable.
The employment of older people will undoubtedly have a negative productivity effect on most organisations. Granted there are some whose jobs do not entail physical or creative activity, where age may make little difference to the capacity of the worker.
However, the majority of workplaces will suffer a decrease in productivity by having to retain older employees, against both the employers’ desires and the wishes of the majority of the employees themselves. Being forced to work an extra few years when you had expected to retire at 65 is not conducive to being a motivated and dedicated employee. And a truculent workforce is the last thing European nations need at this time.
What the developed nations actually need is to raise productivity to extract the maximum return on business investment in order to help restore some sort of balance to the national finances, particularly in the private sector that generates the wealth to keep the rest of the economy afloat.
Making workers stay in employment longer is perfectly fine at a time of full employment, when it can help expand national capacity. Making them stay, when younger men and women are forced to waste their creativity and energy idling on the dole is just squandering a nation’s human capital.
If we were all like the pundits calling for a longer working life from the conferences and daytime TV sofa’s, no doubt we could all work into our eighties. But real workers do demanding physical and mental jobs and the ageing of this generation requires a more radical response than the over simplistic solutions of the experts.
Maybe they should take a seaside break and look at the reality of the ageing generations, before they pontificate on the solution. A few hits from the mobility scooters may well force them to be a little more innovative around the solution to the greying of the nation, rather than just spouting the received wisdom of increasing the pension age which can only have one result; to clog up the employment market with the enforced labour of the elderly.