You are a graduate in your mid twenties and you are looking for your first job. All, you want is a job that pays you just enough to cover your essentials. Jobs don’t come easily these days, so it will take you several months or even years to land one. Soon you will be thirty, have worked for about two years without any savings, but the pressures of growing up are piling up. You want to start a family, own property and build a house of your own.
Now consider another person who is 60 today, should be retired but he is not. He went to the best public schools of the time, went to Makerere University on government sponsorship, and admitted to public service immediately after his graduation. He now has worked for three decades; perhaps he now has a Masters degree or even a PHD and has accumulated millions in gratuity and pension, but he is unwilling to retire.
Whereas a young unemployed graduate worries about his next meal or his breakthrough job, someone else who has worked for longer than this young man has lived is unprepared to live without the monthly pay. In all, these are two vulnerable groups of different ages, different realities, all living a day at a time.
Ministry of Public service recently confirmed to have received more than 200 applications from civil servants seeking to revise their age downwards. All the applicants are said to be above 50 years of age and therefore nearing their retirement. The ministry also noted that over 100,000 others had varying information on their national identity cards from what they submitted at the time of joining public service.
It is unique for Uganda that whereas the young people think the age of success has risen to about 45 years, even those who are 60 and over have not registered adequate means of survival beyond their current jobs. The result is that those who are young now fear to grow up, no wonder, the “youth” today, is a status claimed by many so as to get their demands through.
But is it possible to prepare the current lot of first-job seekers for retirement? Yes, and this is how.
The starting point is confidence building. We need to build a functional social services sector that makes everyone believe that they will afford a desirable standard of welfare even when they are not earning. Everyone should be made to believe that they can get affordable and quality health, education and other welfare services at the nearest public facility. Of course this requires massive investment by especially government in providing such services and our resource envelope is not shallow to allow for this if only there were no long hands around it.
Secondly, we need to understand what retirement looks like for the future generations of retirees. We are faced with a generation that has grown up in a fast evolving world and much preoccupied with computers and the internet. This is as important as is dangerous. We could wake up in 2050 to a bunch of retirees who spend their days watching pornography and tweeting about it, without any productivity but with vast abilities.
To the contrary, we can start today to equip these young people with skills in computer programming, robotics (yes, robotics), computer forensics and security, graphics design and others, not just because these offer a great chance at the 21st century jobs, but also demand less physical labour that one would retire to private work in this line at a time their physical strength is deteriorating.
Lastly, we need policies on retirement contributions across all sectors and jobs. Many of the current jobs are short term and contractual (Commonly known as gigs) and the policy regime that regulates the pensions and retirement sector does not cater for this. In addition, there is need for provisions on early retirement and access to benefits for those who would want to retire before the mandatory age. But also provisions should be made to allow workers access their benefits while they are still in employment rather than when they are retired, tired and less willing to invest. The former could trigger more investments and jobs but also offer a safer landing for the retirees.
Most importantly, taking consideration of the current high rates of unemployment, we need to think of a policy that caters for the long time unemployed, those who withdraw from the labour force and the millions who drop out of school in each school cycle. These are special categories of our workforce that might throughout their lifetime never get an opportunity of formal employment. As such, we ought to design a policy that caters for their retirement needs.
This we can do, and we should lest we shall have a generation that would invest in revising age and won’t retire.