Allan Macdougall


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A proposal to help young people into employment, and to reinstate a sensible retirement age for older people

Young people are finding it increasingly difficult to find work, and at the same time older people are being forced to work beyond what used to be considered to be a sensible retirement age.

Some older people either want to retire at 60, or have little choice anyway, due to ill health. Others,(and I would say the vast majority - because of the need to feel 'useful'), would want to carry on working as long as they are able to.

Older people have a valuable accumulated wisdom gained through a lifetime of education, training and working. Younger people have a hunger to learn that same wisdom.

There is also the factor of guilt. I am sure I am not the only person of advancing age who feels guilty about having to carry on working, perhaps depriving a work opportunity for a younger person.

My proposal is this: The government to provide free or low cost training in self-employment for people over 55 in readiness for age 60, where the choice can be made to retire or to carry on working in a self-employed capacity. This means that retirement age could be reinstated to, say, 60, because the numbers taking up self-employment would be greater than those who wish to retire - and would not be claiming pensions or benefits.

If the self-employed businesses take off and get to the point of having to employ workers to continue its success, then young people could take those places and be given apprenticeships and training, using the wisdom and work ethic of the older employer.

There would be two main beneficial outcomes. One is to take many older people out of employment with other established companies, leaving room for younger people to take their place. The other is the start-up of many new companies run by those older people, who potentially could employ many otherwise unemployed younger people in the future.

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    Mar 25 2012: Allan,

    I don't necessarily agree with forcing people of retirement age towards self-employment. The truth is that self-employment is not the answer for everyone. Most people do not have the personality - or the interest in becoming self employed and pushing everyone towards the same door is just setting up a whole lotta people for a big disappointment in their golden years.

    Why does the young workers vs. older workers issue has to be stated as a competition? After all, today's younger workers will become tomorrow's older workforce. Instead of fighting over the last slice of pie, why not bake a bigger pie? Create new jobs that gives everyone an opportunity - young and old - a chance to participate and contribute to the economy. Create a system so that everyone is a winner.

    One of the reasons why this recession has been so deep and long is that the economy is completely restructuring itself. Many jobs that vanished aren't coming back. More people will be freelancers or self-employed. Either by choice or by force. People will be much more mobile. The people who are flexible - young and old will be able to capitalize on the new niches exposed during this radical restructuring. Age discrimination is very real, but there are opportunities for people of all ages. We need to help people see the opportunities emerging in the new economy.
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      Mar 25 2012: Hi Robin,

      I'm not proposing force at all. Just the presentation of an opportunity there for the taking, for those at or near retirement age who are not yet ready to stop work. I realise it would not be for everyone, but I'm pretty sure that there are plenty of older people out there with incredible wisdom, skills and knowledge, who are frustrated right now at not being able to put them to good use.

      It is a terrible waste of wisdom, and an equally terrible waste of creative young talent at the other end. I am attempting to propose a way of encouraging one into a position of helping the other in a mutually beneficial relationship - the old and the young talking to each other respectfully again.

      I am not so sure that in the restructured economy you describe, people will become much more mobile. Do you think think that maybe the opposite could happen, especially with the trajectory of fuel costs soaring ever upwards? I am no economist, but I suspect that economies will revert to becoming more localised and less global - not only by necessity but also by preference, once the restructure has taken place, the dust settles, and we once again realise that actually it is people and healthy ecosystems that matter, when all is said and done.

      Thank you for your comments.
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        Mar 26 2012: Hi Allan,

        But why not offer the self-employment education option to everyone, young and old? Perhaps some young people would like to start their own companies, therefore reducing the number of young people looking for work and offering employment for greater numbers of people. I don't quite understand the benefit of offering the education only to older people.

        If anything, its going to be harder to convince someone who has had a secure corporate job for 40 years to take the leap in starting a company at age 65 rather than a 21 year old with limited work experience and nothing to really lose.

        I understand what you are saying about mobility, but the reality is that there is a certain part of the population that is highly mobile. There are people who are 'super commuters' who live in one state and work in another. Go abroad and you'll meet 'seagulls' who work knows no true boundaries.

        I am an American who lives in Denmark and has work and clients across Europe. I've got two suitcases and that's it. It makes it very easy to jump on the next job opportunity. I see many people my age with the same mobile lifestyle.

        So yes, there are people who want to stay put, but the reality is that if you live in certain parts of the US or the world, there isn't and won't be enough happening locally with opportunities to justify staying. You have to go where the work is. It may be here one year and there the next.

        I get what you are saying with gas prices, but there is a significant subset of the population that is on the move.
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    Apr 6 2012: I am a teacher and 60 and close to retirement. Will I retire? NEVER but I will change what I do. I have had an interesting life and want to give back to others for the remainder of my days so I am planning on going to PA school so I can set up a PA practice with an MD adviser and spend the remainder of my days helping others have good health and bring back the idea that I as a child appreciated which was have a home call from my doctor. With medical practices so tied to hospitals or clinics it would be freeing to just be able to go to the patients home and do the diagnosis and apply the healing therapies in the privacy of the home where we know they heal faster. More like the old time doctors that went in the wee hours of the morning by horse and buggy. I already have a plan and ideas and have found several PA schools to apply to. See we do not necessarily need to retire and stop working we can just move into the newer fields of work and make a difference there. I do not see using a Horse and buggy but a high mileage 4 wheel drive truck with a vets box on the back is my ideal office.
    Young people can do this also. Yes the will not be millionaires and may some times have to take barter for their skills in more rural areas but is it not the satisfaction of the job well done that keeps us happy in our work. If money is the only goal there are ways to make money that require just capital investment and lots of time watching the stock market. I had a friend in law school that quit that life style because it was harder work than he wanted to do so now he is a lawyer and successful and happy.
    Sorry but a P.A. is a Physicians Assistance here in the United States and they can under a doctor's guidance to a lot of things a doctor can do depending on which state they are in.
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    Mar 25 2012: All great societies throughout history have had two things in common they begin with limited government and a large service base of professional and manual trades people. These were the backbone of the society. When the nation changed from a service based limited government to a low service base to a domination by government agenda it begin to perish. The United States is entering that phase now. Legislation and political agendas have assulted small and large businesses alike and they are beyond recovery. In the administrations march toward Socialism the opportunities to open a new business is virtually impossible in the United States. I have retired three times and work on a contrat request bases only. In my opinion older workers have less sick days, are on time daily, provide a quality poduct, and need less supewrvision. They are at the most value to the employer as they mature. I would agree with your theory more if it were reversed. Companies would probally benefit by hiring young temps and keeping the good ones and throwing the bad ones back. I have trained many up and coming prospects and they are more interested in kissing up to move up than hard work. Good thought but can not agree with the plan. Best of luck. Bob
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      Mar 25 2012: Hi Bob,

      Are these phases, moving from a manufacturing base towards the strait-jacketing of government meddling, an inevitable part of socio-economic 'progress'? What would it take to enact the necessary changes to those phases?

      Why do you think young temps are more interested in kissing up to move up, rather than hard work? Could it be something to do with a predetermined negative perception they might have of the working environment? Is it down to education? The media portrayal of negativity?

      My own thoughts are that older people are perhaps more immune to such negativity in the workplace, not least because they remember a time when a kind of symbiosis co-existed with hard work.

      Perhaps I generalise, but I don't think many ordinary young people have ever experienced positivity and mutual respect in the workplace.

      I think the will is there in young people to adopt a good work ethic, but it is also beholden on employers to dig a little deeper to find it, through an initial presumption of innocence rather than guilt. I believe that if you trust and respect someone, they will more often than not, become trustworthy and respectful.

      Appreciate your thoughts.
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        Mar 25 2012: I wish there was a simple answer. Lets start with "the good ole days". Less Gov intervention (read paperwork/legal issues) allowed the brass to go down to the floor view, communicate, and make informed decisions. They came up from the ranks and likely knew many of the workers. The worker also valued the job and worked hard to keep it. They were most likely a lifetime employee. We had a technical problem not long ago that brought us down. It was Friday 4 o'clock. All the young employees left at 5 stating that was their hours and the problem could wait. My self and five "old" workers (brass, supervisors, and floor workers) stayed and returned on Saturday to fix the problem. Kids want right now everything that it took their parents a lifetime to aquire. By credit cards, instant credit, and government mandates that banks make loans that are just plain crazy, the young are way over their heads for car, college, house, and fun money loans. When the going gets tough their priorities are selfish and self centered and they pack up and the tax payer (old guys) see the bank, company, and federal loss in higher costs / taxes. Democrats socialism looks good to them. They can party and someone else foots the bill. We know there is no free lunch. Unions have protected bad workers, and lead to companies going bankrupt. We are becoming a welfare state. The answer is compound and I have rambled through just a few thoughts. I am sure you have seen some of this "you owe me" mentality in England. Thanks for the relpy. All of the best. Bob
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    Mar 24 2012: Hi Allan .
    This would be a great idea, but for one little flaw. Self-employed what ? Like you, I am at that time of life. I was an engineer, now I work as a part-time postman. I have been self-employed; company director; employed; unemployed; student. I would start a company, or go self employed at the drop of a hat; no training required.
    The reason there are no jobs is there is no money available to do the work. It makes no difference whether you are a new startup, or established. So how would it help to go self-employed?
    Maybe the government could offer a small bread & butter contract, but I can just imagine the screams from existing companies. As long as the government puts bankers above production companies we're goosed!

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      Mar 24 2012: Hi Peter,

      Good to hear from you and thank you for your comments.

      I still think there are many people who have worked most of their lives as employees in big companies, and who may possess an unrealised ability to start up their own businesses and make a success of it. As you probably know, in the UK (not sure about the USA?) there is no incentive to make that daring jump, due to the forfeiture of financial help (resigning from a company means that one cannot claim any benefits to help with new business start-ups).

      In my work as a counsellor, I regularly hear stories of intense, heart-wrenching frustration from young and old, about how their talents are being wasted with little or no incentive to use them.

      What would those companies be screaming about? The prospect of losing their ageing employees, or gaining a younger workforce - or both?

      I expect you would agree that something needs a good shake-up?

      If you had the power to shake things up in that way, how would you reassemble the pieces?

      Who or what would take priority in that rebuilding process?
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        Mar 24 2012: Hi Allan.
        Now your asking ! Let's assume a clean sheet with no international element, this would be my wish list ;-

        1. All politicians on national average wage+exp 10yrs maximum tenure. (no career politics)
        2. CEO's max 10 times lowest paid in their company.
        3. Reintroduce Gold Standard to currency.
        4. Banks just regular businesses, going bust as required.
        5. Emphasis on manufacturing in education & training .
        6. Larger manufacturers obliged to provide apprenticeships in their field.
        7. There has been too much emphasis on white collar education. Degrees are ten a penny, but you can't get a plumber.

        I know this is wishful thinking, but something radical is required. It seems each taxpayer needs to find app. £80,000 or so, just to get us out the red. In schools, hospitals, & large corporations very expensive blunders are being made daily for want of common sense. Doctors feel the need to stand for parliament & aircraft carriers are to sail with no aircraft . Even my own little part time job has gone mad. Instead of walking round with the mail, we now have to use vans. This takes much longer, plus we need vans; it must be costing millions, & no-one seems to know why.

        Your idea has merit as far as it goes, but there's a long way to go.

        1. We need self sufficient politicians who know how to survive in the real world, & are willing to make a sacrifice for their country. Too many are just in it for personal benefit.
        2. Too many top earners are immune to the realities of the companies they head. They flit from co. to co. with obscene amounts of money changing hands regardless of the realities within the business.
        3. Governments are robbing us by devaluing our savings & pensions.
        4. The banks are too powerful, they are just service providers.
        5. Only manufacturing provides real wealth; the uk is too dependant on the 'city' casino .

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          Mar 25 2012: Hi peter,
          I like your wish list and agree that something radical is required. But given that the political system seems perversely happy to grind on into slow-burn deterioration, is it actually possible for radical change to take place, using the system it has devised for itself?

          Lamentably, radical change is usually preceded by the wake-up call of some kind of disaster (such as war), and the human cost involved within it. I'm not so sure it is actually possible for radical change to take place in politics, and still remain humane.

          Too many people need to be aggressively pushed into changing their sense of reality through disaster, rather than being 'pulled' into change through common sense - or even human survival.

          You mention the need for politicians to know how to survive in the real world. What would change that mindset? - and is the current mindset flawed because of a lack of accountability towards the people who vote them in? Is a 4 year term in government is too long to retain any kind of accountability to anyone except politicians themselves? I am sure you have noticed the sudden rise in generosity and humane behaviour immediately preceding an election...

          Appreciate your thoughts!