Friday, 28 March 2014

Reforming pensions and demographics - No work until your 25?

I managed to get 3 ticks for a stupid post for the first time ever earlier in the week, having suggested that due to the ageing demographic crisis we need to be more radical than just axing annuities and increasing the retirement age.

There was much fair comment that losing people in the prime of their lives and losing their skills sets would be a challenge. I doubt this applies to all professions equally but clearly some, like technology, could not survive such a break. Hairdressers and gardeners, perhaps less so.

Another way of moving the goalposts is to extend childhood into the mid-20's. Anyone who has grown-up kids will know that in many ways this has effectively happened already. But for the UK we still maintain a Dickensian approach to schooling, which if reformed, might help to both improve our children's overall education and add in the time needed to help with extending working lives into people's mid-70's.

In many Countries, such as Sweden, Switzerland, even China, kids do not start primary school until they are 7. In the UK they start at age 5. As an adult and having worked with people extensively from all of these Countries I would never know the difference. Perhaps though there is some as they learn creativity and play for another 2 years? The studies into this suggest this maybe the case but are inconclusive.

Moreover, in the US, where I went to University, all Uni courses are a minimum of 4 years and some are even 5 years. Scotland too has 4 year courses.

Just changing our system of education to this model would add 3 years onto the time until full work was started. Children could do primary school to 13, secondary school to 19/20 and then University or apprenticeship training until 24. Thus only entering the full world of adult work at 25ish.

Some of issues around children staying at home have been defeated in recent years by the sheer cost of housing forcing them to stay with parents in any event when having small salaries. In London  by way the average age of house buying is 35!

Finally, none of this should impact on the State negatively. Children staying at home until 7 means no overall increase in school time and extending university or apprenticeship training again has minimal impact on the National Budget.


Lord Blagger said...

Finally, none of this should impact on the State negatively. Children staying at home until 7 means no overall increase in school time


yes it does.

People use schools as childcare that they don't have to 'directly' pay for so they can go and work, and pay taxes.

Negative effects for the state.

CityUnslicker said...

umm...they can pay for childcare themselves - hwo does this effect the sate unless crazed government decide to offer free childcare (this is an issue as our politico's are morons, I agree.)

jan said...

My immediate thought is that one size does not firt all......I used to say to myself that my kids got on despite school not because of it!

I had a daughter who was ready to learn to read and write at nursery age and she was bored by "playing" whereas I had sons who were not ready for more than a couple of hours in nursery at age 4 and were definitely not ready for full time school age 5.

I now have a grandson with autism and he is being home-educated as nowhere is suitable for his needs. (I might add that trying to get suitable provision is a complete nightmare which involves endless assessments and paperwork with an army of beauracratic middle-aged well-meaning but useless second-rate women) There are many others who find mainstream school doesn't work and a surprising amount of non-school provision under the radar eg forest schools where most of the learning is outside and which suits many boys much better than having to sit still at a desk.

At the other end many 18 year olds are not ready to leave home and settle at uni with all this entails. There is a lot of growing up to do eg learning to cope with finances and catering for oneself.

Some breeze through all the stages but many do not and yet they feel pressurised to perform perfectly in all aspects of their lives. Real life ain't like that.

Demetrius said...

On the other hand my granddad left school at 10 and worked into his 80's. He was not alone in this kind of pattern. Mind you he had four and half years off between 1914 and 1919.

formertory said...

Scottish University courses are 4 years because Scottish secondary schools have "Highers" rather than A-levels. The first of four years is about filling in gaps that would have been filled in an A-level syllabus. I have two sons in Scottish universities (they went through the Scottish school system) right now and I have to say that the length of the holidays and the tiny proportion of their time taken up by actual work / tutorials is a disgrace.

They'd have been better off with shorter holiday breaks and a shorter course (and so, less debt accrued). Buckingham University (privately run) manages to do perfectly respectable and respected degree courses in 2 years, by having vastly reduced holidays.

The opportunity cost of artificially extended degree courses is huge, and the pure cost of larger student loans will simply add to the debt burden the next generation is expected to manage with.

dearieme said...

"The first of four years is about filling in gaps that would have been filled in an A-level syllabus". Things must have changed. In my day it took a term or less to fill any gaps vs A levels. Partly because pupils started studying for Highers many months before they took their O-levels, partly because A level teaching was so slow compared to university teaching.

By the way, do you realise that "the tiny proportion of their time taken up by actual work / tutorials is a disgrace" implies that your sons haven't yet realised how one is meant to use a university?

formertory said...

Use it for what? For learning, or for socialising?

FWIW they're both graduating this year with 2.1 Honours, both in academic subjects rather than fluff, and both at Universities in the first rank of Scottish institutions rather than re-titled Polytechnics. I'm rather proud of them both. Firsts would have been nice, but hey. They've done well.

I stand by my remark about long holidays and low workload. And I didn't need the lecture, thanks.

K said...

I think part of the reason the US has so many school shootings and the like is that they lock students into 13 years of all or nothing.

I wish I'd just left at 16 instead of staying in education because I was a straight A student and everybody expected me to stay in education.

You can actually start school in Scotland at any age from 4-6 and it's up to the parents to decide when their kid is ready. Even in England it's not totally uncommon for people to stay in sixth form until they're 19/20 to get extra A levels.

I have physics AS/A level and Higher level materials from about 10 years ago. I'd say that the Higher was basically equivalent to an AS level.

When I moved back to Scotland, teachers, career advisors, and so on seemed convinced that I could pass Highers no problem and thus get free admittance to Scottish universities. They all knew that Highers are easier.

When revising for A levels we were actually given old O Level exams to practice on. From the material I've used and mock exams I've done I'd say it goes something like A level > O Level > Higher > AS level.

dearieme said...

I practised for Higher French on old A-level papers. The teacher wanted something a tickle harder than Higher, and the A-level filled the bill.

formertory said...

Isn't that why they have Advanced Higher (= A level)which both mine studied in one subject? Maths in one case, History in the other.

I'm not particularly wanting to pick a fight with you, dearieme, but I'm not sure about your "in my day" protestation. The "Scottish system" is not the panacea it pretends to be. It's hugely expensive of students' time and effort.

Electro-Kevin said...

It all amounts to and results in the same thing and this idea is just as whacky (though admittedly more likely) as your first. In fact a mate has just finished supporting his son through an intern/apprenticeship to 25 with a famous airline company. His first pay packet was this year despite him being productive for at least two.

None of us were expecting this burden so far into adulthood.

For what privilege ? Let me guess.

We have a surfeit of people. Old people are going to get old whichever way we cut it and some jobs are unsuitable for old age anyway.

Why is it taboo in 'polite' company to mention the obvious - uncontrolled immigration ?

Clearly there would be plenty of jobs and houses otherwise and no comment can be taken seriously without mention of such an obvious and important factor.

andrew said...

it does link in to the retirement posting in the sense that it is increasingly possible and necessary to recognise that people are different. back when you went to school until age 10 and then worked on a farm for the rest of your life a standardised education could be justified.
now, we are richer, more diverse and understand that both morally and economically it is a good idea to maximise human capital.
I started school at 3, but think my sister would have been happier if she had started much later.
I went to college at 18 but do wonder if I would now you have to pay, hopefully young people would look at the costs / benefits with a cold eye and perhaps go at a later age

Blue Eyes said...

CU I still don't understand why you are trying to get people to work *less*...

Surely the point about the demographic "crisis" is that people are spending too much of their lives not working and depending on others (unfunded state and public sector pensions). How does making people dependent on the state or their parents longer help?

We need more flexibility and self-reliance, not less.

Get rid of defined-benefit pensions, make the state pension a safety net only (it already is really), get rid of artificial retirement age and let people plan their own finances.

Electro-Kevin said...

Why can't old people work in coffee shops and driving local taxis to supplement their retirements while young roustabout under 25s get on with erecting scaffolding and building office blocks ?

In fact this country has so much employment that we've even had to import Big Issue sellers and beggars to do the work our own people are too sniffy to do.

Blue Eyes said...


There should be no shame in dropping down from a challenging career to a slightly less high-skilled one as we get older.

Also, the migrants selling the Big Issue really pisses me off. I can't work out why it annoys me though...

Electro-Kevin said...

Blue - in fact I know many people who want to drop down... including me.

The Big Issue sellers probably piss you off because it was intended to help homeless people - not draw them in so that they could get National Insurance numbers to claim dole.

Anonymous said...

Isn't this post just the "lump of labour fallacy"? The central planner's view of an economy that there are a fixed number of jobs and you have to rearrange people between them?

Mark Wadsworth said...

Firstly, all this is a bad idea. The Finns start school later, the French start earlier and the UK gets it about right.

Secondly, there is no "ageing" crisis. "Crisis" suggests an immediate and unexpected emergency that arrived out of the blue.

Thirdly, I agree, over time the country will be saddled with more old people incapable of working and requiring expensive healthcare. That's only the government's problem if you make it the government's problem.

Fourthly, let's assume what matters is the ratio of "workers to everybody else" because workers generate wealth and everybody else consumes it.

So currently there are 30 million recorded as being in work,, five million of whom is pencil pushing and quango crap, so 25 million can support 37 million non-woekrs (children, unemployed, pencil pushers, quangocrats and pensioners).

If you predict that the number of e.g. pensioners is to increase by 5 million, then you just need to reduce the number of other non-productive people by 3 million and increase the number of workers by 3 million and the old equilibrium is maintained.

Blue Eyes said...

MW, I put "crisis" in quotes for exactly that reason.

EK - the thing is that the Big Issue is a business and who it is staffed by is up to the organisation, plus it doesn't affect me because I think I have only bought it once ever. But it still annoys me. I'm probably racist or something.

visc said...

Anon 10.14 It appears in some cases the lump of labour fallacy is a fallacy in itself...

CityUnslicker said...

BE - sensible comment re qork, but alot of this ties into the issue we have of how productive work is. Already in this country we have huge amounts of unproductive work being done - ie quango's.

The lump of labour fallacy is a silly distraction. There surely is a pace at which we can create jobs and expand the economy and this is the key issue as ageing, technology and immigration all pour water onto the hot oil.

My supositions this week have generated good debate. My aim was not to convince but to get people thinking about how at a macro level society will change rapidly in the next 30 years.

Blue Eyes said...

CU yes there are too many non-jobs. What realists need to do is convince the unions/general lefties that keeping people on who don't produce anything (or worse!) hold back the real public servants who do.

Just imagine what would happen if we spent the whole education budget on actual education! Or the welfare budget on training people to do the jobs that are needed!