Thursday, February 25, 2010

Reversing Course? Call for Lowering Retirement Age to Boost Younger Employment in United States

Pressures of the recession on labor participation rates are leading to some calls for temporarily reducing some retirement ages in the United States to encourage older workers to leave the workforce. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the labor force participation rate for workers age 16-24 decreased from 59.1% to 54.7%, while the labor force participation rate of workers age 55 and older increased from 38.9% to 39.9%. Thus, EPI suggests:
This lost work experience is likely to have a lasting detrimental effect on the wages and occupational paths of these young workers. Congress should consider making Medicare and unreduced social security retirement available to workers at age 64 for the next two years so that older workers would be able to retire. Such a policy would have the added benefit of creating job openings for younger workers.
Separately, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) called for a six-month period during which people could retire at the age of 60. With a price tag of $15 billion, he said this would create a million jobs.
"It's voluntary and the idea is that since we already know that 70 percent of people are taking early retirement at age 62, this idea that I have would say that -- just for a limited period, on a voluntary basis only -- if people want to take retirement at age 60, we calculate that maybe a million people would take that, and create a million job openings and enable people to move into the workforce, while others would have their retirement secure," Kucinich said during an appearance on Fox News.
However, according to at least one commentator (Bruce Bartlett), "To be actuarially fair, the benefits for those retiring at age 60, as Congressman Kucinich proposes, would have to be even lower, thus making it very unlikely that his plan would induce much in the way of additional retirement among employed older workers. The only ones that would be attracted to it are those that are unemployed, which necessarily means that no vacancies would be created."

Sources: Economic Policy Institute "Leaving in Droves" (February 24, 2010); The Hill "Lawmaker wants retirement age lowered to 60 for six months" (February 21, 2010); Wall St. Pit "A Bad Idea from Dennis Kucinich" (February 22, 2010)

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