Getting grades, work to the grave

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By Stacey Askew

With older generations keeping  a death grip on jobs, can Ryerson students expect turnover to open up spots in the job market?

The law abolishing mandatory retirement could affect grads in the long run, an employment expert says.

Under the Ontario legislation which is now coming into effect after a year in legal limbo, workers are not required to retire at age 65. They can work for as long as they are able to.

Aino Lokk, a Ryerson employment counsellor, said students should be aware of the long-term effects of the legislation.

Lokk believes this policy could change the way students think about their futures.

“It opens up flexibility for how proactive (students) are going to be … when they’re going to retire and how they’re going to retire,” she said.

Lokk says students should familiarize themselves with the policy because employers have some leeway in the way they choose it.

“For example, if part of your job involves driving and your vision is getting worse, the fact that you can work past 65 doesn’t mean your employer is going to keep you in that role,” she said. Employers could keep people employed but not necessarily in the same capacity.

Some may start their careers when they graduate, leave to look after their family, then re-enter the job market if they know they can stay longer, she adds.

However, economists and sociologists say it will make our lives easier.

“Other things equal, there may be some sectors of the economy where you find a block on (job) entrance,” said Jon Kesselman, an economy professor at Simon Fraser University.

Kesselman said career advancement could slow down when current graduates reach their late 40s or early 50s. Experienced employees will be more inclined to stick around.

“Most of the English-speaking world has gone this way,” said Kesselman. The United States, Australia and the United Kingdom have abolished mandatory retirement. He said no significant effects in job availability have been seen within them.

An up side to letting people work as long as they want is that companies can use the skill and experience of older workers to improve their younger ones via mentoring, said John Johnson, an information specialist with Human Resources Professional Association of Ontario.

“There have always been employees who don’t want to retire. They love their job, they’re married to it,” said Johnson. But at the moment, he admits, they are the minority.

The bill to abolish mandatory retirement in Ontario was passed Dec. 12, 2005 and was made because the old law was seen as age discrimination.

Companies were given a year to accommodate workers who wished to stay past 65.

Despite its goal, the desired effect won’t be immediately felt.

“We’re probably going to only have a small proportion (of people) at first who take advantage of the law,” said David MacGreggor, a sociologist and editor of Times Up!, a book about mandatory retirement.

MacGreggor believes the benefits of having no mandatory retirement easily outweigh any possible side effects.

“Right now, what we do is kind of closet people when they get to be a certain age.”

“What we’ll see in the future is a much more active participation in everyone’s lives, whether students or old people, will be improved,” MacGreggor said.

Avner Levin, a Ryerson business management law professor, believes there are some flaws in the new legislation.

“The questions are, can you continue paying into your pension? What about health and dental insurance, etc? You may think that everything applies as usual, but it does not. Nothing in (the bill) says what the conditions are going to be after 65,” said Levin, adding there are a lot of specifics left up to the employer and employee.

Janet Mark, a third-year nursing student, said that older people staying employed past 65 is beneficial.

“There’s a lot of hands-on skills we don’t know. Once (they’ve retired) who’s going to show us those skills?”

Mark doubts she will retire at 65.

“We’re paying into a pension we’re probably gonna see nothing of. I predict we’ll probably just keep working until we’re bedridden.”

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