“Stephen, can you please extend my contract by two more years, so that I can wrap up and retire?” These are the words a Ghanaian expatriate said to his boss, a few months to his set retirement date. This was a recounted scenario that Prof. Stephen Adei experienced when he was the head of the UN Bureau in New York.
“Manager, things are not cool at home, can you talk to management to give me some contract work after retirement?”. I believe these words will sound very familiar to many Human Resources (HR) practitioners and corporate leaders in Ghana. Unfortunately, when business leaders are unable to help retiring workers with such requests, they are seen as callous. On the contrary, it is a lack of prudence on the part of business executives who worked for 15 to 35 years in the corporate world without making adequate preparations for their retirement. In other situations, I have heard of situations where workers have sent in early retirement notices. When faced with such an experience, one cannot help but be amazed and conclude: ‘wow! this is the sign of a purpose-driven working life!’
Section 59 of Ghana’s National Pension Act 2008 (Act 766 as amended by Act 883) allows any person aged 15 – 45 years to join the Social Security Scheme. However, per Section 70 of Act 766 and Article 199 (1) of the 1992 Constitution the compulsory and voluntary retirement age is 60 and 55 years respectively. This applies to all workers in the private sector, civil and public services except other categories of workers where there are existing Constitutional or statutory extensions.
Justice cannot be done to any discussion on the retirement cap age of a nation without making consideration for the issue of life expectancy. According to available data from the World Health Organization (WHO), the global average life expectancy is 72.0 years whilst that of Africa is 61.2 years. When you compare life expectancy at birth rates to corresponding retirement ages in some selected countries, it is insightful:
*Source: 2018 World Health Statistics, WHO
A nation’s maximum retirement age should be correlating with its life expectancy amongst other standards of living measurements. The World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2016/17 recommended that employees should continue working until age 70 in nations such as the UK, US, Japan and Canada because the number of people over 65 years will more than triple to 2.1 billion by 2050.
The irony in the world of work in Ghana is that we start our careers with the view of working towards a decent retirement income or property, but when retirement docks we wish we were just starting out.
It is helpful to still be working after retirement. In fact, it is encouraged for reasons of fitness and longevity. Professor Laura Carstensen, a researcher, Psychologist and founding Director of the Stanford Centre for Longevity (Stanford University) suggests that careers should be managed as marathons and not sprints! In that view, men and women should have a working life after 60! One must plan for a personal working life after retirement long before they get to retirement age. Transamerica published a survey finding in 2017 which noted that 52% of all workers fear outliving their savings and investment when they retire, and 42% of workers are concerned that they will not be able to meet the basic financial needs of their household when they retire. This fuels the popular notion that: “It doesn’t take age to retire, it takes money.”
Even more, it takes a lot of planning to retire well. When an organisation is unable to implement retirement strategies for employees, it indications the lack of smart leadership in the HR and Business Leaders’ teams. Employees due for retirement should not feel indispensable, as the work environment is structured in a way that replaces the older generation with the younger generation. When a worker due for retirement refuses to go on retirement, they limit the opportunities of employment for a younger worker. Ghana need not increase the retirement age, if HR practitioners across industries get some things straight. The following propositions are ways in which HR can address some retirement fears:
- Gathering credible data; Information such as the date of birth of employees need to be accurate. The standard of proof and best practice is a statutory document – passport, birth certificate or a national ID.
- Celebrating Early Retirees; Senior Citizens who go into early retirement could be celebrated by being added to a “Corporate Hall of Fame for Senior Citizens”. By this, they could be given one individual quota for employment in their retiring companies, and in turn, be coaches or mentors to younger professionals.
- Staying Relevant with Shared Knowledge; senior citizens who are ready to retire should consider writing memoirs, practical business books, or becoming career coaches to improve the knowledge management hub of companies and industries. By doing this, the would-be retirees would have a continued means of work after retirement. Adopting a continuous writing habit has a way of reinvigorating the fertility of the mind.
- Pursuing Entrepreneurial ventures; instead of becoming a CFA (Chartered Funeral Attendant) in your retirement season, one can consider pursuing some entrepreneurial ventures. This is always a healthy alternative to boredom. Consider establishing a personal work plan to implement after retirement, that may include joining forces with other like minds. As has been said, retiring from your job does not have to mean retirement from life.
We need the time-tested cautious experiences of the aged to blend with the fluidly creative minds and exuberance of the youth to make a productive workplace at all levels of the organisation! However, everyone needs to get ready for their retirement whether or not they are in a Baby Boomer or millennial.
By: Daniel Agyen-Tweneboah