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Another good idea, but half-baked

Workers will have to wait until they are at least 66 years old to receive their state pension under radical Conservative plans to raise the retirement age within the next seven years. This is an excellent idea in principle, because many people are able and willing to work until well into their seventies, sometimes beyond. Many already do, but outside the formal economy, where their work is deemed to be of no value. And this is the problem with the Conservatives’ bright idea. Good grandparents are almost essential for a good upbringing, since they can teach things that parents can not. Elderly people are also to be found doing all sorts of useful things, running community and arts groups, working for charities and in other voluntary activities, helping neighbours, caring for relatives. If these people are forced into paid employment then the work they do at present will either not be done or someone else will have to be paid to do it. But none of this is reckoned according to the accountants’ and economists’ narrow point of view, which dominates the “thinking” of our politicians.

Of course people should have the option to continue in paid employment for as long as they are capable of doing useful work, if that is what they want. But the reality

of the jobs market is very different. Governments seem pathologically unable to ensure that the naturally unlimited demand within the economy actually becomes effective and translates into jobs that people are able and willing to pay to get done. There are also issues of prejudice to be overcome. It is also the case that few people get beyond the age of 50 without some kind of illness that impairs their ability to do the same kind of work as someone aged 20. This should not be a problem if the individuals and their employers are willing to take a flexible attitude and accept, for example, that someone with a neck problem should not be slumped in an office chair front of a computer screen for several hours at a stretch and may not be able to turn up for a full day’s work with 100% reliability. But that will not happen until there is a proper balance between the work that is available and the number of people who want to do the work. It is a natural condition that the two will be in balance, but when there is a blockage in the system resulting ultimately from a lack of free access to land, this cannot happen.

Thus, all that will happen is that large numbers of people will stay on incapacity benefit or unemployment benefit for an extra year of their lives. Nothing will be saved and no extra production will have taken place.