Ireland should stop treating its older workers in the public service as second-class citizens and allow them to work on after they reach the age of 65, Galway TD Noel Grealish has said.
The Independent Deputy for Galway West raised the issue in a Dáil question to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, asking him what his plans he had to change the mandatory retirement age in the public sector.
“Forcing people to retire at 65 when they wish to continue working doesn’t make sense when you are talking about a generation of people with energy and a wealth of experience that can still contribute greatly to their country.
“Long gone are the days when someone in their 60s was in the autumn of their lives and running out of steam — today’s 65-year-old would be the equivalent of someone 20 years their junior in a previous generation.
“Society has changed hugely over the past few decades and people in their 60s are now living healthy and energetic lives in most cases, and it’s ridiculous to consign them to the scrapheap the day they turn 65.”
Deputy Grealish pointed out that there was currently an anomaly within the public service, in that people who joined after January 2004 are not obliged to retire on age grounds, while those who were employed before that have no choice.
“At a minimum, our public sector employees, the people who have helped to run our local authorities, our government departments and health services etc, should be allowed remain in their jobs at least until they reach the age when they become entitled to the state pension. At the moment that’s at 66, but this is set to rise to 67 from the year 2021 and to 68 from 2028.
“It would also mean the state benefits in saving money by putting off the time when a pension must be paid out.”
Deputy Grealish added that the average life expectancy for man in Ireland today was almost 77 and that of a woman was almost 82 years.
“Just a century ago, the average life expectancy here was about 50. And life expectancy at the age of 65 is rising faster than anywhere in the EU
“We can’t go on seeing these wonderful advances in society and changes in the way we age without also addressing the big question of a person’s right to continue working after 65,” he said.
In response to Deputy Grealish’s Dáil question, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, said that his Department was carrying out a review of the current statutory and operational considerations giving rise to barriers to extended participation in the public service workforce, up to and including the current and planned age of entitlement to the Contributory State Pension.
“The review is expected to be completed by the end of the current quarter. Future policy in this area will be considered by Government following the outcome of the review,” the Minister added.