Boomer envy

I read Liz Hodgkinson’s article (Perspective, Aug/Sep 2022) with a great degree of envy. Looking for a job after just having finished uni, in the middle of an economic meltdown post-covid, the world she describes sounds like the stuff of dreams. Although I’m not sure how much of what is going on I can really blame on my grandparents?

Jack Galyer,

Bourbon-esque band of brothers

Congratulations to Yudhanjaya Wijeratne for his analysis of Sri Lanka’s (not-so) recent upheavals (Perspective, Aug/Sep ’22), and her “Bastille moment”. A fine coincidence that heroic ex-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa should have ended up resigning – by email, from Singapore – on 14 July.

Of course, after its revolution, France went through 25 years of murderous chaos, tyranny, and military dictatorship, before ending up right back where they started. I note that “Gota” is already safely back home in Colombo…

ASH Smyth

Ponzi pensions

The main reason we should even consider taxing childless couples (Perspective Aug/Sep 2022 ) is that pensions and NHS finances have been organised like a giant slow motion Ponzi Scheme. People imagine that “their’ working age” contributions fund their own retirement and increased old-age healthcare costs. But this is a logical impossibility. Who funded the pensions of those who retired five years after pensions were inaugurated? The current working generation has always funded the current retirees, and as life expectancy rises we need more workers, from indigenous parents or from migration, to fund rising OAP costs. Then the new larger working age population itself retires, and we need a yet larger cohort, ad infinitum. Even as life expectancy growth slows, we are on this rising population-rising contributions-rising OAP cohort treadmill. This is not sustainable economically, or for planet Earth.

We can get off this treadmill by persuading retirees to work and employers to take them on. Most jobs now are automated, requiring more IT skills than brawn, and ever more OAPs have these skills. Yet bosses often think OAPs will be slow, or reluctant to take orders, or bad at IT. Also, why train them up when they will leave in five to ten years, whereas a twenty year old might stay on for decades? The UK employer’s NI rate is 15 per cent, and we could shave 1 per cent off this for every year an employee is past retirement age. The same goes for the employee’s income tax rate, which would facilitate more employment at low gross wages. Meanwhile let the OAP worker keep the pension they would get if not working; they have already accrued this and it costs nothing extra if they do work. Some would argue that the downside is we make OAPs too attractive to employ and reduce vacancies for younger people. But this is the “lump of labour” fallacy used by the anti-immigration lobby, and if anything, we will free up younger people for continued education and training. Win-win for the economy – and the environment

Dr Hilary J Shaw,
De Montfort University,

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