Peter Fleming | February 14 2017 | The Guardian
As never-ending politically motivated austerity takes hold, more and more people will find they cannot afford to stop work. But it doesn’t have to be like this
It’s almost too easy to imagine the scenario. After spending most of our adult life in paid employment, the golden day arrives. A well-earned retirement. Suddenly we’re released from the grip of office email and that long commute. Finally we can enjoy our remaining time on Earth pursuing those interests we’d never had time for, perhaps reconnecting with family and finishing those repairs on the house. Above all, time to relax.
Sadly, this probably won’t be your future … unless you’re independently wealthy. What can only be described as the “battle over work” in the neoliberal era in relation to pay and conditions has just opened another front. Retirement. And things are beginning to get nasty.
We’re now told that the real question is no longer when we will retire but if we will retire, with the prospect of working until you drop likely to become the norm. Due to an ageing population, longer life expectancy and a state pension scheme that can’t keep up, retirement might soon be a thing of the past. According to David Blake, director of the Pensions Institute at Cass Business School, “the danger now is we will have a generation who really can’t afford to retire”.
Retirement was once considered the jewel in the crown of any civilised society. Discrediting the idea that it’s acceptable for the elderly to toil late into their twilight years was one of the great achievements of the 20th century. It wasn’t just about morality, of course. There was also an economic rationale. But giving people the chance to rest after 45 years of hard slog was deemed the decent thing to do.
Not any more. Now we have entered the age of austerity, one that we’re told might never end. As a result, there’ll be no government help in your dotage. Nor will your employer’s pension plan provide enough to make ends meet. If this heartless post-crash variant of neoliberal capitalism could be summed up in one message, it would be this: you are on your own.