Looking the wrong way

What’s disturbing about the struggle to keep the official retirement age for women at 62 is that it assumes this is what all women want, thus prevents a serious discussion of the broader issue.

Haredi woman working 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Haredi woman working 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
On Tuesday, the world celebrated its 100th International Women’s Day, and as usual a lot was said about the progress women have made in the sphere of rights and equality, and about the remaining discrimination and inequality.
There is no doubt that progress has been made here since the establishment of the state. The percentage of female MKs has doubled, though it is still far from the ideal (in 25 nations the percentage of women parliamentarians is more than 30, and in one – Rwanda – it is over 50; Sweden comes second with 45%). In the labor market, women are much better represented in most occupations and employment grades than in the past, even though their salaries are frequently lower than those of men, even in the same job and with equal education.
Progress has also been made in fighting sexual harassment and violence against women.
Naturally one’s perspective reflects one’s circumstances, and my perspective is influenced by the fact that I recently retired.
Two basic facts emerge when one deals with women from the perspective of the “golden age.”
The first is that we live longer than men, and the second is that our percentage in the population therefore rises the older we get.
However, since among senior citizens I am but a babe, I should like to relate to the issue of mandatory retirement. Women’s organizations are currently struggling against the intention to raise the female retirement age from 62 to 64. The struggle is actually about the age at which a woman can start receiving an old-age pension, not about the age at which she can retire. One can retire whenever one wishes, though at least in public institutions and the civil service one is rarely allowed to stay on beyond 67.
What disturbs me about the struggle to keep the official retirement age for women at 62 is that it assumes this is what all women want, and thus prevents a serious discussion of the broader issue. It is a fact that most women (and many men) are happy to retire much earlier. For many it is because they regard work as an unpleasant burden. As someone who has always enjoyed work and has been fortunate enough to have a varied and interesting career, I feel sorry for those who have had a different experience.
There are also numerous women who accumulate their full pension rights well before the age of 62, so if they decide to retire earlier they must wait several years before they are entitled to receive a pension.
There is also, however, the opposite situation, which is the one that applies to me.
I retired at 67, which entitled me to a bonus from the NII for every year that I worked beyond 62. However, I was obliged to retire even though I did not feel ready to stop working, my superiors were not eager to get rid of me and because I had only started in the Knesset at 51, my pension is just over a third of the maximum, resulting in a sharp drop in monthly income.
I AM not the only one in this situation, but since everyone is busy fighting to keep the pension age for women at 62, hardly anyone pays attention to the rights of those who wish to continue working past 67.
What I’m saying is that the battle ought to be in favor of being able to retire and receive a pension whenever one pleases, on the basis of the rights one has accumulated.
There is no reason why a woman should not be able to retire, and receive whatever pension she has accumulated, before she reaches 62 or 64, if she wishes.
There is also no reason why a woman (or a man, for that matter) should not be able to continue working for as long as she is able and willing.
The argument that by continuing to work one is taking jobs from the young is nonsense.
It is like praising haredi men and Arab women for staying out of the workforce because they thus leave more jobs for the rest of the population. The more people work and earn a living, the more money there is in an economy, and the more jobs are created. Similarly, the less money handed out to people who are able to work but are not doing so, the more there is left for productive purposes.
The writer is a former Knesset employee.