Age-old question

SCRAPPING the compulsory retirement age is, according to the Government, a no-brainer, a move that is "great news" for business and the wider economy.

But, as so often with policy announcements, the issues are far more complex than a Minister's press statement suggests.

The country is in a very different economic position to when the Tories and the Lib Dems put the pledge in their election manifestos last year. The coalition's "age of austerity" has seen unemployment and inflation on the rise, with more pain on the way as the public sector is scaled back drastically.

The property market's inherent instability has also added to the uncertainty among older members of the workforce. A study by Prudential found that 45 per cent of those who expect to retire this year do not think they have saved enough and fear financial difficulty.

Many hoped their home would provide significant funds, but the state of the market has made them think twice.

Those planning to live off their savings will be concerned at the rock bottom interest rates, which stubbornly refuse to rise despite a rapid increase in the cost of living.

The solution for some will be to delay their retirement. Of course, this is their right and there is much to be gained in business from experienced members of the workforce.

However, a balance is crucial. Should an already weak jobs market stagnate, with fewer positions for young people to get into employment, there is a danger that the next generation – those tasked with the long-term aim of dragging the economy back on to its feet – could be lost to the dole queue.

Is this a price that the country can afford to pay?