WAITING FOR THE DAY OF RETIREMENT
Invariably when you visit a government office you have to wait. The waiting is not all that bad if you look around and observe what is taking place.
There are many useful observations that can be made while waiting in a government office. Often these insights are lost on our policymakers and politicians, and for the main reason that because of their positions and importance in life, they never have to sit and wait while their transactions are being handled. They have others to do the running around for them and so they miss out on valuable insights into the workings within government departments.
Within most public services, you are bound to find an employee that stands out for no other reason than the fact that they do not fit in.
Most often this employee would have belonged to the old public service and would have found that over time, he or she had become redundant because of the work requiring more knowledge and specialized skills.
These employees often are only a few years away from the age of retirement but have outlived their usefulness to the system. They can no longer function efficiently at the level at which they are, and given their age and present skills, it makes no sense to re-train them for a modern public service.
These employees can often be seen twiddling their thumbs at their desks. And when they notice that you are observing them they try to engage in some make-believe work, pretending that they are doing something, when in fact they have nothing to do.
If by chance they have a supervisory position and are required to sign-off on some document, they will examine it like a doctor examining a patient. But it is clear even to the casual onlooker that they are merely going through the ritual of pretending that they are re-checking it.
For most of them, they are simply waiting for the day they will retire. They are hanging on, going through the motions, and enduring the humiliation of the work day just in order that they can serve their time and qualify for their pension and the big pay-off that comes with it.
With this big pay-off they may be able to buy a car and place it in hire, open a shop, pay off their mortgage, or do something else useful with it to bring in an income, which when added to their monthly pension, will tie them over for the rest of their living days.
And so each day they go to work and whittle the day away watching the new, more educated and more talented entrants do most of the work, just like they did when they were young and in a different public service to the one that now exists.
The public service is not what it used to be. Entry level positions are no longer filled by persons who may have simply completed secondary education. These positions are now being filled by young, highly educated kids with seven and eight subjects, others with multiple degrees and a long line of computer certificates. There are others who come in with specialized skills, and still others who have to be paid market rates because of the need for their skills.
For example, a normal electrical engineer cannot be paid the same as a hydrological engineer. Even though they are both engineers, the skill of one is in more demand than the other and therefore will attract a higher pay. This is why the old public service system of salary bands has become outmoded and why many people opt for non-tenured employment within the public service.
There are a great many educated and highly talented individuals in our public service. But there are also many others who have outlived their usefulness and who are simply occupying space and waiting for the day when they are relieved of the responsibility of going to work.
These workers want to be retired. They are waiting to be retired and the government should help them by offering a voluntary retirement package as has been done with great success in other countries.
There are many within the public service who have a few more years on the job and who would be willing if offered early retirement without loss of benefits to move on.
The government should seriously consider doing this. It will reduce the size of the government bureaucracy and create some openings for some sharp, qualified young people who will bring more energy and more enthusiasm to the work of the public service.
The government in the early 1990s had once toyed with the idea of offering a voluntary retirement package, but backed out of the idea. At the time, it did not seem as if there would be many takers.
However, given the increase in salaries since then and the concomitant increase in the benefits, the pay-off package may now induce many to opt for early retirement.
There are also many retired persons who are still on the government payroll. Many of them are not indispensable. The government should also, especially in light of the Budget cuts on employment costs, consider asking these retirees who are still on the job to make way.
This would be one way of cushioning the effects of the Budget cuts – by encouraging the attrition of those who are close to or have reached retirement age. The government can minimize the adverse effects of the recent Budget cuts on employment costs.