Retirement age row: Shoura plan rapped
Many people have opposed the Shoura Council’s move to extend the retirement age to 62 years, saying it would have a negative impact on the employment of young Saudi men and women.
“What can we expect from an employee who is past 60 especially when the country is heading toward e-government,” asked a jobless Saudi who called for the early retirement of government workers.
Supporters of the decision, however, said the extension of the retirement age has nothing to do with unemployment and urged the government to step up its efforts to create more job openings for Saudi nationals in the private sector.
The General Statistics Department of the Ministry of Economy and Planning said that about 30 to 34 percent Saudi women of working age are unemployed.
It also put the jobless rate among Saudi men at 6.2 percent.
Omar Al-Khaledi, a 26-year-old Saudi, wondered what prompted the consultative council to adopt such a decision when increasing numbers of young Saudi men and women remain jobless.
“I don’t have a job and people like me believe that the early retirement of government employees will create more job opportunities for us,” he said.
Al-Khaledi said young men and women are more capable of handling modern electronic equipment compared to the elderly who had reached the retirement age.
Mohammed Al-Awad, another Saudi, believed that the salary of a 60-year-old employee could be used to employ four young men and women.
But supporters of the move said the continuation of highly experienced employees would add value to any organization.
Mohammed Al-Qahtani, a Shoura member, said that raising the retirement age would not hurt the youth prospects, adding that most advanced countries have a fixed retirement age of 65.
“It shows that people at that age are still capable of making valuable contributions to the country.”
Al-Qahtani said the number of Shoura members, who opposed the move, was much less than those who supported it.
He also spoke about the depleting pension funds despite efforts to invest in them, saying it would require government support to honor future commitments.
“There is an excess of staff in many government departments,” Al-Qahtani said calling for a study to cut their numbers.
He also said that private companies could accommodate more qualified Saudi workers.
Faisal Al-Otaibi, a columnist, said the Shoura proposal was not suitable for a country like Saudi Arabia where more than 60 percent of the population is below 30.
He called for a strategy to reduce the number of foreign workers gradually to solve the country’s unemployment problem.
Essam Al-Zamil, another writer, said more than three million Saudi graduates would enter the job market during the next 10 years.
Essam Khalifa, a member of the Saudi Economic Society, believed the Shoura decision would contribute to an increase in the unemployment rate.
“I hope the Cabinet will not approve the Shoura proposal and instead cut the retirement age to 55 to accommodate more young men and women. It will have a positive economic impact, in terms of paying lower salaries and achieving better performance,” he said.