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Not Everyone Has Seen the Same Gain in Life Expectancy

Monday, 11 March 2013 05:05

The Post has a nice piece pointing out the disparities in life expectancy by income. As a result of these differences, proposals to raise the age of Social Security eligibility would disproportionately hit lower income workers.

At one point the piece tells readers:

"Advocates of raising the retirement age say only a relative handful of older workers would be harmed and that the vulnerable could be protected by enacting hardship exemptions."

It would have been worth noting that this practice of creating "hardship exemptions" was one of the policies that won Greece much ridicule in recent years. Its social security system allowed workers in many occupations to retire at younger ages. For example hairdressers were allowed to start collecting benefits at age 50, ostensibly because they worked with hazardous chemicals. 

Most countries have been moving away from policies that vary retirement ages by occupation in favor of uniform retirement age. It is striking that we have people in policy positions in the United States that are advocating the old Greek model.


Comments (8)Add Comment
Remnds Me of "Death Panels"
written by Bart, March 11, 2013 6:13

Who will set the hardship exemptions: Robert Samuelson?

Will tree surgeons be favored over roofers; concrete pourers over carpenters; truck drivers over taxi drivers; hair dressers over waiters?
The Serious People Decide the Exemptions
written by Dean, March 11, 2013 7:05
Isn't it obvious?
Which VSP will go first?
written by Jennifer, March 11, 2013 9:26
Ok I am really looking forward to the David Brooks column explaining the positive side of Greek government policy.
Hairdressers do have shorter lives
written by Victor, March 11, 2013 1:28
Obviously the solution is to maintain a universal system for retirement, but the claim that Greece was ridiculous for recognizing that hairdressers could suffer from occupationally-caused shorter lives is itself ridiculous. Hairdressers are exposed to a variety of solvents and other hazardous chemicals in liquid and aerosol form, from formaldehyde to bleach to asbestos--usually with little safety training, protective equipment, or even proper ventilation. Women's hairdressers have higher rates of several forms of cancers than average -- probably because of this higher exposure. They work long hours standing up and are subject to repetitive stress and other joint problems. While they don't suffer from the hazards that power pole workers or miners experience, they undoubtedly have shorter lives, unfortunately, than editorial writers at the Post or Times.
Not Everyone Has Seen the Same Gain in Life Expectancy
written by Bob Pinkus, March 11, 2013 5:53
Poorly written column, even worse comments.

Why did you title this column "Not Everyone Has Seen the Same Gain in Life Expectancy" and then go on to take the conservative stance on policies that vary retirement age?

And then there are the brainless comments, "Will tree surgeons be favored over roofers..."

This commentator needs to get a brain. Obviously he's never worked a job like roofing or a dangerous job like climbing trees everyday. Obviously, both would fall into the same category.

That is far from the point. The pont is, certain jobs are much more strenuous and cause much more wear and tear on the body.

For example, checkers in big box stores are on their feet 8 to 10 hours a day at work, then there are other chores of living. Anyone who has experienced osteoarthritis in the knees knows how painful and debilitating this is.

Just because "Most countries have been moving away from policies that vary retirement ages by occupation in favor of uniform retirement age," doesn't mean that it's a good it's a good move.

Not only are people who work at manual jobs losing out because of wage stagnation and inflation (yes there is inflation in the basics needed for living), they are about to have their SS cut and be forced to work more years.

And the effete wimps in finance and politics who've never worked physiucally in their life (think Paul Ryan), consider this as fair policy.
People age at different rates
written by denise, March 11, 2013 5:55
regardless of occupation. By the time they reach age 60, many people who've been healthy start having ailments that make working full time difficult. I have only to look at my cohorts to observe this. It is unpredictable who will stay healthy and who will not.
Differentiating Retirement Ages by Occupation is Nightmare
written by Dean, March 11, 2013 10:18
We have disability for individuals who can't work. I don't believe in designing unworkable government programs -- making distinctions by occupation fits that bill. If the Serious People were serious, they would know this.
Agreed ...
written by David, March 11, 2013 11:48
Dean is right. We already have hardship exemptions in the SS system. We also have some incentives in place for those who do have the opportunity and health to work to 69 or beyond (married couples at least) to choose to do so. The supposed solution of raising retirement age is a solution to a problem that the VSPs are intending to create: sick and poor elderly in the tens of millions.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.