Three-day weeks for the over-40s? Get real and pull the other one

EDITOR'S BLOG: Rather than easing back into restful semi-retirement the likelihood is that we're all going to be working harder for longer.

by Matthew Gwyther
Last Updated: 22 Apr 2016

You’ll have to excuse me if this article gets 60% of the way towards completion and then stops. But I’m only doing this on the basis of medical advice. This results from the latest research suggesting over-40s need to watch themselves and only work the equivalent of a three-day week lest it damage our ‘cognitive capability’. God forbid. Because, although we may be getting on, we don’t want the urgency of a deadline to turn us seniors into old codgers who dribble onto our slippers and can’t remember where we left the key for the Honda Jazz 1.3 automatic because we just need to pop down to Waitrose to pick up a few bits and pieces... if you get my ageist drift.

I do wonder which planet these researchers live on sometimes. It’s significant that the research originates in Japan where there are so many crumblies that geriatric nappies have outsold the kiddy versions for years. You wonder why Japan is in the extended economic funk it is? Because it cannot afford to go on supporting the economically unproductive elderly who, due to their healthy diet of sushi and boiled rice, all live until they are 110. And the Japanese are so unenthusiastic about inward migration that they simply cannot replenish their population fast enough. Japan is shrinking. This is a bad thing. Even Nigel Farage, if he lived in Tokyo, would be yelling for more Poles and Romanians.  

Sadly when and how long people work for doesn’t come down to choice and having a lovely time doing very little, but to hard economics. We are not well off enough anymore to let people retire when they do and become a cost to the state. The political cowardice that allows wealthy UK pensioners to continue to be given winter heating allowances, free bus passes and a BBC TV licence is appalling. But George Osborne won’t do anything about it because they vote for him in large numbers. And what thanks do the OAPs give those who work, pay tax and carry the burden of paying the old age pension? They whine endlessly about migration and vote Brexit which in all likelihood will disadvantage our economy at least in the short term.

I recall the days...

Sorry for that pause. But  I had to go off for a little lie down and a mug of Horlicks. Then, when I rose from my day bed, I leafed quietly through my copy of Saga magazine in the conservatory, noting with interest a feature on the latest models of mobility scooters, before returning to my keyboard and checking on my share portfolio.

So, where were we? Oh yes. Declining cognitive performance in the over-40s. What about the value of experience and judgment? Anyone recall the legendary B&Q experiment from years back when they employed large numbers of grey hairs in their stores as customer assistants?  And guess what? They were far more productive, had fewer days off sick and were more liked by customers than their juvenile colleagues.

The elderly are too valuable an asset to squander.  Churchill was 77 when he became prime minister for the second time. Admittedly doing a bottle of Pol Roger each day before lunch had taken its toll by then and he didn’t quite give us his best but it’s ‘way to go, Winston.’ Declined cognitive performance? Get the old back into the saddle.

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