TEU president-elect Dr Sandra Grey says that, if the retirement age increases to 67, New Zealand needs to start working to get rid of age discrimination in the labour force.
“People who are made redundant or wish to change jobs in their 50s and 60s find it hard in many cases to get a new position,” said Dr Grey. “There is already significant age discrimination against many workers and this will be heightened in a tight labour market. If we’re going to have people working longer, then employers need to realise the benefits of employing older workers.”
Dr Grey’s comments follow a call by the retirement commissioner, Diana Crossan, to increase the age of entitlement for superannuation from 65 to 67 to ensure it remains affordable over the long term. Ms Crossan says the age of eligibility should start to increase from 2020 by two months per year, until 2033 when it would reach 67.
She also advocates a means-tested benefit, to help people such as manual workers who can no longer realistically work after the age of 65, to cope financially until they turn 67.
Dr Grey said means-tested benefit this could be particularly hard on those workers in the tertiary education sector who do manual labour – such as cleaners and caretakers.
The Council of Trade Unions secretary, Peter Conway, says that the proposal to remove universal entitlement at age 65 and replace it with a selective means-tested benefit for some people until they are 67 represents a major change to the notion of a universal entitlement.
“There is a case for additional support – such as subsidised power bills – for those on low incomes, but not for any removal of basic entitlements. The fundamental problem is that we have low wages and that translates into low savings. That is what needs to be addressed, rather than reducing incomes and entitlements in retirement,” said Mr Conway.