WE have always been told that the retirement age of employees in all departments is 60. A little before one’s 60th birthday, one receives a letter from the employer that on attaining the age of superannuation, one’s services have come to an end. Fair enough, as this is what the law states.

Summaries have been put up to extend the age of superannuation to 62, if not 65, as practised in some countries, but to no avail.

What we see on the ground, however, suggests that people do not become suddenly useless when they wake up on their 60th birthday. Most institutions re-employ such staff and this phase lasts for a few years and it is not uncommon to find people actively working till age 70 and beyond. Such appointments are contractual in nature, meaning that people get their salaries but no other benefits that they used to get as full-time employees. Also, there is the practice of keeping part-time and work-from-home employees who are paid by the hour or by the volume of work done. For these, there is neither any age limit nor a determined period of appointment. Retirement, in actual practice, has become an effective tool in the hands of the employers to get the same stuff done at a much lesser cost.

While there is no age barrier for politicians, it is strange that even our bureaucrats and personnel working for certain state institutions get newer appointments at the time of retirement. After having enjoyed all the perks and privileges of full-time service, they get even higher positions and accrue innumerable benefits.

In contrast, 60 is the age limit exercised with utmost rigidity in the education sector. Barring a few contracts that are at the discretion of the ‘competent authority’, people have to say goodbye to professional life. Unless one is well connected, the more senior one is, the more undesired one gets in our institutions of higher learning.

Interestingly, things are the other way round in the West. One’s seniority becomes one’s privilege and one is sought after on the basis of experience and track record; not by one’s age.

In our country, seniority and age are discredits. There are no universal rules and regulations. Public relations skills and contacts matter. Mostly it is the incompetent that continue to flourish and the gems are done away with. While we imitate the West in almost everything, from fashion to food and from lifestyle to social choices, why can’t we follow them in their traits, and honour our seniors who represent the assets of a nation?

Prof (Dr) Shazra Munnawer
Rawalpindi

Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2022

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