NOT all that long ago, the idea that we would still be working after “retirement” and that the official retirement age might be pushed back beyond age 65 would have been greeted with dismay and apprehension.
But employment here has been the fastest growing of any age segment in recent years and today more than 1.1 million people over this age are in work.
For many in manual occupations, or in risk occupations such as police and fire services, early retirement is inevitable and appropriate. But for millions in service sector occupations it is no exaggeration to say we are witnessing a social revolution over working habits and notions of retirement. With lengthening life expectancy, changes in the nature of work and the opportunities thrown open by digital communication and the internet, millions are able to work long after what was previously regarded as a fixed retirement age.
Conventional notions of retirement are changing fast. An extensive survey by the pensions and insurance company Aegon finds that more than two-thirds of people in the UK expect to continue to do some work after they technically retire. They are likely to enter a period of “phased retirement”, in which they will use some aspect of flexible working to combine leisure time with periods where they can still earn some extra money to top up their pensions.
The options range across part-time working, temporary contracts, freelance assignments and retainer arrangements enabling many to work from home.
For many, such late-in-life work will be a matter of necessity, helping to augment a poor performing or inadequately resourced private pension. The need to keep earning will be an imposition. But for millions of others it will be an option to be welcomed, offering a means to continue earning while still being able to enjoy leisure and hobby pursuits.
However, it does not undermine the need, either for the state to offer a basic level of retirement provision or for individuals to save what they can over their lifetimes to provide a personal pension to cover them over the period when they will have fully retired.
Recent welcome changes to pension regulations offer greater pensions flexibility for people who want to retire and start withdrawing an income from their pension, but would also like to continue to make contributions to their pension pot of up to £10,000 a year. These changes should help restore the damage to confidence in pension saving suffered in recent years and encourage workers to make an early commitment to save.
Securing a comfortable retirement still presents many challenges and demands, and this social revolution will bring in its train opportunities and dangers for which we must prepare.
In the sound of the lone piper it was moving and in its silence, eloquent. Thousands of veterans, servicemen and women and relatives of heroes of the First World War braved the rain for the Drumhead Service in Edinburgh yesterday to honour those who fought in the conflict that broke out 100 years ago.
Seldom was a nation rallied to war with such confident hopes of early victory. And never was a war more bravely endured or victory more painfully won. The appalling sacrifice of the 1914-18 war in which 145,000 Scots sacrificed their lives stands as an eternal lesson on the brutality of war and the colossal price paid for those drawn into it. The special remembrance service was the first of eight events planned in Scotland. A special military-led ceremony at Edinburgh Castle was followed by a procession watched by thousands down the Royal Mile, concluding with a special remembrance service at a war memorial in Holyrood Park.
This was a conflict fought with immense cost in human life and suffering and its consequences shook the world for decades. Today the news is dominated by bitter conflicts across the Middle East and a civil war in the eastern Ukraine where the shooting down of a civilian airliner has appalled the world.
Victory in 1918 came at a terrible price, both on the battlefields and at home. But it set us on course to evolve the liberal democracy we know today. We are torn between an acute awareness of the price of armed conflict and a desire to intervene on humanitarian concerns in conflicts where basic rights have been violated and innocent people threatened with slaughter. There is no simple legacy from the First World War. But it has taught us to value the role of international organisations in conflict mediation and to ensure that they have the means and authority to act as a check against barbarism wherever it occurs.