Row Over Women's Early Retirement
A motion to allow female civil servants take early retirement at the age of 50 was blocked yesterday by the Shura Council.
Councillors described the government-drafted bill, originally proposed by parliament and approved by MPs last month, as unconstitutional, discriminatory and dangerous.
Pension Fund Commission officials said at yesterday's weekly council session that the scheme would cost the fund BD173.5 million over the next five years.
Under the law, female civil servants would be given five 'virtual years' at 50, to ensure they get the same benefits when they retire at 55.
Council services committee chairman Dr Bahiya Al Jishi said the law was discriminatory as it differentiates between male and female civil servants.
"The problem is that those behind the law think that females are fragile and could break easily, something I am here to say is wrong," she said.
"Basically, this law is being launched to remove females from the labour market and pave the way for more men.
Council legislative and legal affairs committee vice-chairman Sayed Habib Hashim said the law was found to be unconstitutional after being studied by his committee.
"The constitution doesn't differentiate between men and women," he said.
"This law suggests women are incapable and weak and can't handle work after the age of 50.
"This is wrong because most women continue achieving success after the age of 50.
"Pushing them out with this dangerous law means that we deprive them of an opportunity to reach the top."
However, councillor Weddad Al Fadhel said the law would be voluntary, not compulsory.
"It means that women would have the choice to either leave at the age of 50 or stay until the retirement age," he said.
Council public utilities and environment affairs committee chairman Faud Al Haji added the law should not be passed because it discriminates against men, not women.
"Female civil servants have around 200 days' holiday a year - if we take into consideration maternity leave, days off if they become widows and breastfeeding time-off, in addition to their annual leave," he said.
"And now we want them to get early retirement." Mr Al Haji said studies showed women lived longer than men.
"Men don't live much and they are the ones who should be getting early retirement.
"When the next term comes in October, I will propose a law asking for early retirement for men," he added.
Fund assistant general manager for pension affairs Abdullatif Al Zayani said the law would encourage women to take early retirement, rather than encourage them to stay in their jobs.
"They would get a better pension if they decide to leave early rather than stay, which we believe shouldn't happen," he said.
"The only GCC country with such a scheme is Kuwait, but women are forced to contribute more to the fund to get such privilege.
"Here everyone pays the same, without discrimination.
"The fund will go bankrupt, considering that now three employees' contributions are being given to one pensioner.
"With this law, it will be five to one, which would be more disastrous."
The bill will now be referred back to parliament, but if MPs insist on it, it will return to the Shura Council again for a second review.
If it is opposed, it will be scheduled for a joint National Assembly session, in which both chambers would sit for a vote.
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