Labour Minister supports higher retirement age in Guyana
By Kurt Campbell
While many countries around the world, including the United Kingdom and the United States, have taken steps in recent years to increase the retirement age to roughly 65 years, Guyana’s retirement age in the Public Service remains at 55.
There have been calls in the last five years for it to be moved upwards but there has been some reluctance by authorities to heed the call. On Thursday, in the clearest signal yet from the Irfaan Ali led government, Minister of Labour Joseph Hamilton said he supports moves in that direction, calling for a national conversation on the issue.
“We need to have a national conversation about raising the age of retirement. As I see it, until we get to the national conversation we must also decide what do we do with retirees,” he told the News Room in an invited comment.
While the retirement age in Guyana is 55 years, few persons have been sent off as early as 50-year-old with some public sector organisations allowing for retirement between 60 and 65-years-old.
But Hamilton is of the view that persons in Guyana between 50 and 60-years-old are still healthy and strong with great intellectual capacity and experience.
“… so what do we do with them?
“In the case of women, we send them home to be early grandmothers… and teachers, I think it is unfair for persons to join the teaching profession at 18 and after 37 years then one day they are told ‘today is your last day at work’,” Hamilton reasoned.
Asked about what retirement age he supports, Hamilton said he will leave it up to the national conversation. He believes, however, that programmes geared towards reskilling retired persons to go back into the world of work must be put in place.
He has already asked the Board of Industrial Training (BIT) to fashion those programmes for rollout soon. A 2016 Commission of Inquiry into the Public Service had recommended new retirement age for public servants.
The CoI report stated that the private sector also has higher retirement ages based on pension schemes providing for retirement between 60 and 65 years. There is no fixed retirement age for top executives in the private sector. Similarly, in public life, the CoI noted that there is no retirement age for members of the National Assembly, Ministers, Leader of the Opposition, Vice-Presidents, the President and their advisers.
The CoI also recommended that pension entitlements be calculated at a maximum of 43 and one-third service years, as against currently 33 and one third service years.
It also recommended that public servants who are currently below the age of 55 should be given the option to retire at 60 years or any time before 65 and that no retiring public servant should be employed on contract in an established Public Service position.
It urged too that the Pensions Act Chapter 27:02 be amended as may be required to provide for higher pensions, as a result of the higher retirement age.
Persons have since called for consultations with the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) and other stakeholders for the forgoing recommendations to be considered for implementation without delay.
Together with many other recommendations of the CoI, it is believed that a stronger, professional Public Service can be developed and nurtured.