The last five decades have seen a rapid increase in lifespan in Guyana. People are living as much as a decade longer and have been staying much healthier later in life, yet the retirement age remains at 55 in Guyana for public servants.
It is not because aging has been slowed or reversed, but because people in general around the world are staying healthy at a more advanced age. Retiring at age 55 in Guyana has been an indoctrinated British policy which Britain bequeathed to most of its colonies in the Caribbean, Africa and elsewhere.
At 55, most people are in the prime of their life, energetic and experienced.
The better health in older age stems from public health efforts globally to improve living conditions and prevent disease, and from improved medical interventions. In the past half century, life span in most countries, including Guyana has grown at a rate of 2.5 years per decade, or about six hours per day.
Except for Guyana and a few other countries, the average retirement age is 65 years or older. In Britain, Europe, the U.S. and Canada, the average retirement age is 65 years.
It is possible that if we continue to make progress in reducing mortality in Guyana, then most children born in the 1990s will live to see their 100th birthday in the 22nd century.
And if gains in life expectancy continue to be made at the same pace as during the last century, more than half of the children alive today may see 100 candles on their birthday cake.
In Guyana, the average lifespan has increased from 56 years in 1960 to 68 years in 2016.
Given the increase in the life span of Guyanese, the government should increase the retirement age to at least 60 years.
Most people born in the 1990s might live past 90 and be in good health up to 75 or 80 years; therefore, it makes sense for the government to rethink its policies on retirement. It might make more sense to mix education, work and child-rearing across more years of life instead of devoting the first two and half decades exclusively to education, the next three decades to career and parenting, and the last three or more decades solely to leisure.
Judges enjoy an advantage over public servants in that when they are usually allowed to retire at 65 years of age depending on whether they are appointed Chancellor.
Therefore, extending the age of retirement of public servants to that age or even to 60 so that they too can enjoy their benefits from the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) is a recommendation.
This is quite unlike the situation, which currently exists in the public service where tenured public servants are required to retire at the age of 55 years.
Many of them are still in their prime and feel that they have many more productive years ahead. Their retirement age should be extended to make it consistent with that of judges.
As things now stand, public servants, teachers and nurses retiring at the age of 55 have to wait another five years before they could receive their NIS pension.
These are the most difficult five years for them because if after retirement at age 55, they take a job that pays less than what they were earning when they retired, then at age 60 when they are due for NIS pension, they would receive less NIS benefits because they are paid on the average salary of the last five years of employment.
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