The Financial Express

Are we losing expertise of experienced senior people?

| Updated: November 05, 2021 21:15:03

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Senior citizens are becoming an ever-greater proportion of the total population everywhere in the world including Bangladesh because average life expectancy has been increasing over the time which has now become 73 years in Bangladesh. At the same time, those who reach retirement age are healthier and fitter than before. Increasing life expectancy and better health at retirement age are a major success of government's initiatives of health care programme and reduction of poverty and increased access to nutritious food. Experienced retired senior civil servants have high potential in terms of ability to contribute, high qualification and real-life experience and thus their productivity is being utilised in western societies under a knowledge management framework. In the absence of a formal policy framework for engaging those resource persons, not at the cost of young people's employment, developing countries are losing high quality merit, expertise and technical knowhow. It has been seen from global perspectives that countries, which have a formal framework to use expertise of retired experienced professionals in public policy formulation process, in training institutes, research, consultancy work or in various committees constituted on various social issue develop their economy better than those who do not.   This is a link between the novice and the experienced professionals for the benefit of the industry, business and public policy. They are considered as human capital that includes the knowledge, skills, and abilities that individuals gain through education, long training on different issues at home and abroad and various job experiences. In fact, most retirees consider reaching 59 years of age as their most productive phase. They have the skill, talent, stability or maturity and now that their children are settled and they have fulfilled all financial commitments, most have ample time to assist if they find a national framework to contribute to. They have interpersonal relationships, knowledge of decision-making process, stress tolerance and management, leadership skills and other emotional intelligence skills, such as communication skills, cognitive and socio-emotional skills which may not be available in the study programmes of schools, colleges or universities. A long span of time and a long work experiences are required to learn these soft skills and which cannot be achieved overnight. If this soft skill is used, linked and imparted to young people, society can draw benefit immensely. 

When the modern notion of retirement was first articulated near the end of the nineteenth century, the designated retirement age of 67 was longer than the life expectancy at that time in USA. Over the last 50 years, the average retirement age declined steadily in the United States, Great Britain, and Canada and the average retirement age is currently around 62 years whereas the life expectancies have increased up to 73-78 years in those countries, leaving more years for leisure than work. But in fact, many people don't want a life of pure leisure because they get bored and loneliness grab them. 

Senior expert citizens are considered an asset to the society in developed countries. Those with talent in their respective fields get better opportunities to serve the society as long as they can. Professors, teachers, doctors, scientists and lawyers are engaged in many developing countries including Bangladesh as long as they are able to work in their private chambers and feel proud for helping societies.  Nonetheless, most retired civil servants do not get chance to use their productive time after the age of 59 years for not having any formal space to use their ability to deliver. But this age is considered as the pick time to contribute more in the state affairs. With this high life expectancy, how the expertise of seasoned, skilled, knowledgeable retired officers can be utilised in building tolerant society is the key point for discussion now a days everywhere in the world. 

These experienced persons know the issues and challenges of the society within diverse interest groups. They have acquired hard-earned experience from their real-life situation at the time of facing multidimensional challenges. If these unique and exceptional experiences are linked with the new entrants, the society will grow and advance rapidly. But we must remember this engagement is never ever at the cost of employment of young people. The skill of communication, team-building and problem solving may be important for the new employees to learn things better.

Germany, Austria, Spain have created independent councils of senior citizens which have become a major contributor in discussion on public policy issues and issues relating to their own interest.  In Germany and Japan senior persons have been given the opportunity to continue to work for as long as they are able and willing to serve in a very specific field where they have expertise.  Switzerland has amended its state pension system in ways that encourages people to postpone retirement. If they do work longer, they eventually increase their pension. Many countries offer financial support to voluntary organisations that offer jobs including volunteering to older persons. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has been made responsible in India to take care wellbeing of senior citizens in respect to their financial benefits. 

The attitude towards senior citizens is highly disappointing and sometimes they are ignored in developing societies. As a result, they feel neglected and most of them lead a very lonely life and their hard-earned experience is just wasted. If an "Expert Retired Person Resource Pool" is designed to deliver their real-life experiences to the young entrants in the training institutes, trainee officers would benefit n more on real life experience than lectures from the books. Retired experienced professionals of any field can be engaged in a productive way where employed persons are overburdened, and in the process, regular recruitment or appointment of young will not be hindered. 

There may be a Retired Person Resource Pool which may work as  Think Tank or National Knowledge Management Framework with a specific guideline therein to engage wishing retirees with their hard-earned knowledge of practical experience for greater benefit of the young people that may ensure rapid development of governance, business and the economy at large.


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