Posted: Wednesday 18 July 2012
I blogged previously on the BBC’s excellent The Town That Never Retired. Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford were back on the case for the second and final episode which I watched on Sunday night.
By way of a brief recap, with the state pension age rising and with many people unable to afford to retire, this programme attempted to explore the prejudices and the reality. With this in mind various pensioners in Preston were sent back to work at a construction site, a health centre, a restaurant, an estate agency and a chocolate factory for two weeks of work.
The twist in this episode was that the pressure for the pensioners was cranked up a notch with the introduction of some competition by way of some young first time workers.
Like the old workers last week the young workers did live up to some of their stereotypes including in relation to reliability. Within about 20 minutes of the programme starting 3 of the younger workers had either failed to turn up to work or had left half way through the day with the excuses ranging from food poisoning, a 24 hour bug and “personal matters” that the employee did not want to discuss.
Somewhat aghast at the younger workers lack of work ethic, co-presenter Nick Hewer (Alan’s Sugar’s debonair fellow Boardroom member on the Apprentice) told a great story at one point. Nick told of the time when he was in one of his first jobs but faced the problem that the concierge would come around and lock the building at 7pm each night without fail. To get around this problem Nick took to hiding in a cupboard just before 7pm. He then finished his work for the night some time after 7pm and then made his escape by climbing out of a window, across the rooftops and down into the street below. “The work had to be done” Nick, matter of factly, explained.
One depressing statistic was that something like 1 million unemployed workers were under the age of 24. However, this is often used as a justification as to why older people should be made to retire. One of the most interesting aspects of the programme was an interview with an economist who explained why this justification was flawed. Basically his point was that if older workers are allowed to work on then they will have more spending power and will therefore continue to put money into the economy in a way that they would not otherwise be able to do if living off a pension which, in many cases, would be fairly low. He gave the excellent analogy of the very significant increase in female workers after the second world war and beyond. His point being that this did not lead to widespread unemployment amongst male workers but rather resulted in the female workers having a far greater spending power than ever before which was beneficial to the economy and which, in turn, led to more jobs.
There was also an interesting interview with a medical expert who talked about the fact that certain aspects of performance do inevitably suffer with age including in relation to stamina. However, he also made the point that people are living longer and may well be more capable of working from, say 65 to 70, than was the case in the past.
Once the dust had settled some of the young workers were sent packing or had already absented themselves from the proceedings. This was not the case with all of the young workers with a couple of star performs particularly a plumber who had had very little luck on the job market to date but who had a superb work ethic and who impressed his employers no end.
The majority of pensioners enjoyed the experience but, on the whole, weren’t overly impressed at the thought of being back at work particularly once they go to week two. Again, though there were a couple of star performers with Ruth, the waitress, being offered part-time work by her restaurant employer. Given that many of their customers were older it seemed to me to make perfect sense to have someone of this age working for them as the customers were far more able to relate to Ruth and chat away with her than the young staff that they usually employed.
One conclusion taking everything into consideration which seemed to be reached was that part-time working for people working beyond the traditional retirement age may be the way forward. With working patterns becoming ever more flexible that might very well be the answer for many people who either don’t want to retire or who can’t afford to.
Well worth a look on the BBC’s iPlayer - The Town That Never Retired - if you didn’t see it first time around.