Should Nigeria raise retirement age?

It looks like every jurisdiction in the world is joining the movement of raising the retirement age for its workforce. The many countries in that race have different, varied reasons for doing so, or seeking to do so.  But   common features that drive the desire to tinker with the prevailing retirement age in the countries concerned, which is generally to review it upward, are   pension funding crisis of varied severity, and shortage of younger people to replace the aged.

In both cases politicians, economists and experts in population studies join forces to carefully change the rules to keep the elderly workers in their jobs to avert an open manifestation of the pension funding crisis,  and ensure that the economic machines keep running in the experienced hands of the oldies as the younger ones are groomed to take over.

In Nigeria the retirement age for Judges,   University Professors and Registrars was raised to 70, and 65 for other academics. The Daily Trust on June 6, 2019, reported that the Federal Government was considering raising the retirement age to 65 for school teachers. The Federal Ministry of Finance said it will not oppose  a Bill to that effect. Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Barrister Yakubu Dogara, assured visiting leaders of the Nigerian Union of Teachers that the National Assembly would support it.

In a tacit way, under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the retirement age of some Federal Permanent Secretaries was raised by at least one year. The official reason was to enable them put new Ministers through on policies and ensure smoothness in implementing those policies.

As stated earlier, another reason for raising the retirement age in some countries is largely the inadequacy of money to cater for a large number of retirees, especially from ever shrinking budgetary provisions from which the defined benefit system is funded.

A report in 2018 for the Economic and Social Affairs Department of the United Nations Organisation put it thus: “The global workforce is now at a tipping point. We are transitioning out of a decades-long period of rapid growth in working age populations and entering a new era of unprecedented population aging and  slowing workforce growth. Population aging is driven by three major demographic forces. First, due to improved health care and innovations, global life expectancy increased from 47 years in 1950 to 67 years in 2000. Second, total fertility rates fell drastically in the second half of the 20th century. The number of children per woman almost halved between 1950 and 2000. Finally, a surge in fertility rates in the middle of the 20th century, observed largely in North America, parts of Europe, and Australia, created a “baby boom,” a population bulge now entering the older ages.”

The Financial Times of London on November 4, 2019, quoted experts on their view regarding ageing China:  ”Experts have expressed concerns over what has often been called China’s “demographic time bomb”, whereby a shrinking workforce will not be able to support the rapidly growing elderly population. “Consequently, China has raised the retirement age to 65 in 2016 and will gradually take it to 67 in the next two decades.

From 2007 to date, over 80 countries around the world have raised the retirement age for their workers. The retirement age in Libya was raised to 70 years in 2017. Most of Europe is moving toward fixing 67 years as the age of retirement. The retirement age is 68 in the Netherlands.

Will it be appropriate to raise the retirement age for all workers in Nigeria? Do our demographics necessitate that given the large population of unemployed youth? Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) suggests that just less than 46 per cent of our population is aged 1-18. Raising the retirement age means longer waiting time on the queue for jobs by the youth.

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