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New Zealand: Retirement Age Chewed Over

 May 27, 2003

New Zealand - There's concern that people in manual jobs such as meat workers may feel obliged to keep working after they turn 65 even though they are not physically up to the job.

It follows the scrapping of compulsory retirement ages and debate over the ever increasing cost of tax payer funded superannuation.

The age when a worker becomes eligible for superannuation is 65, but Treasury has suggested one of the ways to deal with a ballooning superannuation bill is pushing that age out to 70.

A Massey University report has found that a quarter of meatworkers over 50 would not retire when they turned 65.

Roger Middlemass from the Meatworkers Union of Aotearoa says workers only stay on when they know they are physically capable of doing the job Currently, meatworkers can collect their superannuation at 65 but Human Rights legislation means they cannot be made to stop work based on their age.

Brian Lynch from the Meat Industry Association says representatives of employees and employers have been discussing the issue for more than a year.

Lynch says the meat industry employs 20,000 people in New Zealand, and expecting them to work until they're 70 before they can get national super is not realistic.

Middlemass supports that, saying he can understand why pushing out the retirement age is desirable, but it's not practical for people in labour intensive jobs, like meatworks.

Until Human Rights legislation banned compulsory retirement ages, the police insisted that sworn officers leave at 55.

A police human resources manager, Alison Gracey says there have been noticeable changes in the makeup of the workforce since the ban was introduced.

She says employer's are obliged to not put employees into positions they cannot handle, which can mean they are no longer physically able to do a certain job.

And while there's widespread agreement that the ageing population means the superannuation pie needs to be distributed very carefully, for now none of the political parties are looking at lifting the age for national super.

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