Old Are Lazy, But Fit

Many are concerned about how rich nation workers can pay for the rising costs of public pensions and other elderly benefits.  A graph from the latest Science clarifies.  While the ratio of folks over 65 to younger adults (OADR) will almost double in 45 years, the ratio of disabled to healthy adults (ADDR) will hardly change at all.  The ratio of folks with fifteen years left to live to younger adults will increase ~42%.

oldfolks

  • OADR, … people aged 65 or older, divided by … people of working age, 15 or 20 to 64. …
  • POADR, … people in age groups with life expectancies of 15 or fewer years, divided … people at least 20 years old in age groups with life expectancies greater than 15 years. …
  • ADDR, … adults at least 20 years old with disabilities, divided by … adults at least 20 years without them. (more)

There is no basic economic problem; we have plenty of capable workers. We instead have a political problem – old folks feeling entitled to more leisure at the expense of their juniors.  So just how much will rich nations be willing to tax their workers to pay for “promises” their elderly made to themselves long ago?

GD Star Rating
a WordPress rating system
Tagged as: , ,
Trackback URL:
  • tndal

    Why the inflammatory age-ist headline? Why not headline it
    “Young are Stupid But Will Work A Long Time”.

    I’m removing my bookmark of this site. It’s gone to hell in a haybasket under Hanson.

    • http://don.geddis.org/ Don Geddis

      Hanson didn’t spell it out explicitly, but were you really unable to understand the obvious conclusion? The point is, that there is only a long-term financial crisis in Social Security if the healthy old people simply don’t want to work, not that they’re unable.

      Another way to look at it: back when Social Security started, it’s not that people got to retire at 65 and now we no longer can afford that. The more accurate view is, people got to retire with a decade (?) of healthy life expectancy left. To provide the same benefit today, they should be retiring at 80, not at 65.

      It is a good thing for the world, not a bad thing, that people are generally much healthier between 65 and 80 than they used to be a century ago. Only a poor framing of the “problem” has caused that good change in the world to be viewed as a crisis.

      • http://williambswift.blogspot.com/ billswift

        Actually, 65 was the female average life expectancy at birth in 1940, the male was a little less than 61; I doubt the remaining life expectancy of someone at 65 was much more than 5 years, but wasn’t able to find the information.

    • Aron

      You are assigned no status points from the community for your decision.

      • John Maxwell IV

        You don’t get any status points from me for pretending to speak for the entire community. Although you do get status points for thinking up a new meme.

        /me wonders how status points are related to kudos and brownie points.

  • Dalton Raiford

    I have heard that it is possible to go to hell in a hand-basket.

    Is the same trip by haybasket a smoother ride?

    Is it a direct route, or are there “baleful” stop-overs?

  • http://lyingeyes.blogspot.com ziel

    The notion that old people need to work longer is rather comical in today’s employment climate, is it not? And have none of you ever heard of mandatory retirement ages? How about the practice of forcing older workers out the door? If companies found their pension obligations so terribly onerous, they’d be bending over backwards to keep them employed.

    Also, while older people may be more physically fit than in the past, that does not mean they’re fit enough for most work. The mental skills that led them up the corporate ladder (however short or high that trip might have been) are already deteriorating in their 50’s and no doubt it gets worse in their 60’s and 70’s. Plus there’s the difficulty of keeping up with technology.

    Oh, sure, there are exceptions – codgers who stay sharp as a tack into their 70’s, but this is not the norm. How many employees want to put up with dull-witted, slow-thinking employees just because they’re over 60? The alternative is for older people to take demeaning jobs working for some hyper-active, impatient twenty-somethings. Who wants to watch their parents go through that?

    And if the job is at all physically demanding, forget it – that will certainly solve the problem of them living too long.

    And how are they getting to these jobs? Do we really want our hectic, rush-hour highways further clogged with older folk driving to jobs en masse??

    I agree that the growing size of the older population is a problem we’ll have to face, but I don’t think keeping folks working into their 70’s is a viable solution.

    • Tracy W

      The notion that old people need to work longer is rather comical in today’s employment climate, is it not?

      A hopefully temporary matter, and one that should be resolved independently of what should be done about pensions.

      If companies found their pension obligations so terribly onerous, they’d be bending over backwards to keep them employed.

      You mistake the nature of pension obligations. Very few private pensions take the form of “either you work for me, or I pay you a pension”. Typically benefits are paid at a set rate from a certain age, and perhaps can be taken earlier at a lower level. So someone can keep working and draw a pension, so there’s no marginal benefit to the company from keeping people employed – they don’t avoid paying out a pension.

      Also, while older people may be more physically fit than in the past, that does not mean they’re fit enough for most work.

      May I suggest looking up the concept of comparative advantage?

      How many employees want to put up with dull-witted, slow-thinking employees just because they’re over 60?

      Um, probably as many employees who can find ways to use that labour that makes a return greater than the cost of said labour.

      The alternative is for older people to take demeaning jobs working for some hyper-active, impatient twenty-somethings.

      So providing a useful service is demeaning? You have a weird brain.

      Who wants to watch their parents go through that?

      Anyone who finds the thought of their parents making a contribution to soceity’s economic well-being demeaning is free to support their parents as best they can voluntarily. And I’ll sit back and laugh at you and your weird morals. The problem is when you start wanting other people to pay for your weird moral beliefs about what is demeaning.

      And how are they getting to these jobs? Do we really want our hectic, rush-hour highways further clogged with older folk driving to jobs en masse??

      Do we really want 80% average tax rates?

      I agree that the growing size of the older population is a problem we’ll have to face, but I don’t think keeping folks working into their 70’s is a viable solution.

      Well, what does count as a viable solution?
      – Ever-rising tax rates on those who do work?
      – Cutting the benefits of the older population?
      – Defaulting on debt, thus shafting those who saved money by lending to the government?
      – High wealth taxes, thus shafting those who saved money, including many retirees, and thus discouraging the future supply of capital?

      Which of these options do you think is more viable?

      • http://lyingeyes.blogspot.com ziel

        You mistake the nature of pension obligations. Very few private pensions take the form of “either you work for me, or I pay you a pension”.

        Wrong – you might be able to arrange some part-time or consulting work with your employer after you retire, but you don’t collect on your pension while you’re a full-time worker. I don’t know where you get your ideas,but if you’re going to be so smug in your comments perhaps you should make sure you know what you’re talking about.

        So providing a useful service is demeaning? You have a weird brain.

        The concept of demeaning work is completely foreign to you? Who’s got the weird brain here?

        The problem is when you start wanting other people to pay for your weird moral beliefs about what is demeaning.

        If you have no pension, and you have no savings, then you’re pretty much s*** out of luck, and you’ll have to take what work you can get or get help from relatives. Social Security provides a very limited benefit that few can live on entirely.

        Perhaps you’re very young and can’t imagine ever finding your skills deteriorating as you age; and perhaps some miracle drugs will obviate such deterioration. But barring such miracle drugs (and I wouldn’t hold my breath, given the slow-down in pharmaceutical advances in recent years), the deterioration in skills as you age is very real. You would not be happy in your job if you had to deal with a lot of older workers; nor is the population going to be fine with watching old people suffer from over-work. Nor will younger people (or especially the growing minority younger population) be happy being frozen out of jobs by old folk who can’t retire.

      • Tracy W

        Wrong – you might be able to arrange some part-time or consulting work with your employer after you retire, but you don’t collect on your pension while you’re a full-time worker.

        Ah, my mistake then. Not the first, and it won’t be the last.

        but if you’re going to be so smug in your comments perhaps you should make sure you know what you’re talking about.

        Nope, people are always willing to point out my mistakes to me. Increased smugness does help in prodding people to provide that.

        The concept of demeaning work is completely foreign to you?

        The concept isn’t completely foreign to me, I’ve run across it lots, it’s weird. Important difference.

        Who’s got the weird brain here?

        Anyone who thinks that perfectly fine forms of work, like working for some hyper-active, impatient twenty-somethings. Look at it this way, there are all sorts of jobs that you might wind up doing at some point in your life. The more forms of work that you think are demeaning, you’re always going to be worried that you might have to wind up doing it one day. Meanwhile me, I don’t have that worry. Secondly, if a form of work is demeaning, then the people who do it are logically demeaned. COnsequently, you’re going to be uncomfortable to be around those people, and you might miss out on making some really good friends. And what if one of your kids wants to marry one of those people who do that sort of demeaning work? You face the nasty choice between having to tolerate someone who demeans themselves, or a break with your kid.

        Basically, the more forms of work you think is demeaning, the worse off you make yourself. You can chose to live like that, but I feel no sympathy for your decision.

        If you have no pension, and you have no savings, then you’re pretty much s*** out of luck, and you’ll have to take what work you can get or get help from relatives.

        As I am too young to pull a pension and have few savings, and my relatives are either big on self-dependence or could rather do with my help, I do take what work I can get. And I’m rather puzzled as to how you expect the economy to function, if someone isn’t taking what work they can get. Society can support some people living in idleness, but until someone invents Star Trek’s replicator, the food ain’t going to grow itself, the plumbing ain’t going to fix itself, the toilet’s going to need cleaning, there’s going to be people too disabled to wipe their bottoms, etc.

        the deterioration in skills as you age is very real.

        No argument there.

        You would not be happy in your job if you had to deal with a lot of older workers;

        Actually, based on past experience, happiness in my job comes down to whether I am learning lots of new stuff, or not.

        nor is the population going to be fine with watching old people suffer from over-work.

        Did you read Robin Hansen’s post at all? He’s only talking about the old people who are healthy. As he says, there’s no basic economic problem here.

        Nor will younger people (or especially the growing minority younger population) be happy being frozen out of jobs by old folk who can’t retire.

        Do try and make up your mind, on the one hand you expect us to get upset because you think old people working for some hyper-active, impatient twenty-somethings is demeaning, on the other hand, you expect us to get upset because younger people are being frozen out of these jobs.

        Anyway, you still don’t say which option you think is more viable, as a way of dealing with the rising pension and healthcare costs with an aging population. If there’s an ideal solution you’re sitting on, in which no one would have to work any harder or any longer or suffer any loss in benefits, please mention it, because I know some policymakers who’d love for there to be an easy option.

    • e brown

      bull, i guess you’re planning to end it all by 30 ,right ?

  • http://un-thought.blogspot.com/ Floccina

    There is no basic economic problem; we have plenty of capable workers. So just how much will rich nations be willing to tax their workers to pay for “promises” their elderly made to themselves long ago?

    Which brings up one of my favorite economic questions:

    Do old people vote more because they get more from the government and so have more to loose or do they get more from the government because the vote more?

    • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

      If you’ve read Bryan Caplan you’d know that the young are if anything more supportive of old-age transfers.

  • http://un-thought.blogspot.com/ Floccina

    My modest proposal for Social Security.

    To ziel (who makes some good points). The work will not be demeaning if more old people do it.

    Also it is not like people who do not work in the taxed economy are all idle. (that includes those collecting unemployment) many SS recipients do daycare for their children and often other work. In families where children provide for things that require money (and therefore taxed employment) the aging parents can provide quite a bit of goods and services. Things like gardening, house cleaning, child care, painting, home repair, expertise etc. When the Government inserts itself in between by collecting the money from the children and then turning it over to the parents it lessens that sort of exchange.

    IMO we often make a mistake in assuming that people who do not do taxed work are idle.

    • http://lyingeyes.blogspot.com ziel

      Things like gardening, house cleaning, child care, painting, home repair, expertise etc.

      Interesting – that’s very true – many old people are quite skilled at these kings of things, for example gardening/landscaping – they just can’t handle a lot of customers. But what if we made it perfectly legal to hire retired people to do housework without having to report the activity or pay any taxes? That might have the added benefit of driving out much of the illegal-immigrant draw.

  • Rebecca Burlingame

    For me this whole post is a tremendous argument for integrated work combined with life long learning, in which we each give one another permission to work with our minds as we age, so that none of us have to be consigned to an early grave by physical labor at seventy years of age.

    • http://lyingeyes.blogspot.com ziel

      I don’t really understand what you’re saying, but I like that you’re thinking of different solutions – that’s what we need, not simply “let’s raise the retirement age!”

  • Michael Foody

    1) Old people are worse at working than 40 year olds.
    2) People hate taking a pay cut.
    3) Many people have physically punishing jobs that they can’t keep up for 50-60 years.
    4) We can trade increased productivity gains for more consumption or more leisure. Keeping old people lazy is a fair trade and probably a wise trade.

    • ad

      The people who have to pay to keep the old people lazy might disagree.

      • http://lyingeyes.blogspot.com ziel

        Once they start voting, then there might be some trouble. But as long as people who vote are over 40, it’ll be tough to change.

  • cournot

    It’s interesting that in Japan, many jobs taken here by low wage immigrants are done by older, retired workers. This includes stocking the many vending machine around the cities or helping part time with convenience stores, cleaning up, smaller service jobs, etc. Many do it because they need the money. Others out of boredom. Some of these jobs are in the informal economy and so aren’t subject to taxation.

    One doesn’t have to postulate older people with full time, normal “satisfying” jobs to see how adjustments can be made through delaying retirement or restricting pension and SS payments so that the retired are forced to work to maintain a given standard of living.

  • Jeri

    My older brother was in the trades (lather then plasterer) and he told me that he retired at 55 so that someone younger could have a job. Strange thing is after he retired, they kept calling him to work because they couldn’t get the young guys to come to work. He died in December of his 61st year, just before he was to receive his Social Security in January. Your theory is full of holes and a lot of bull.

    • David

      Your comment is full of anecdote.

  • Pingback: Overcoming Bias : Fertility: The Big Problem