Kudos to McDonald’s Philippines for giving senior citizens, presumably retirees, a “second” chance. Golden Arches Development Corp. (which operates McDonald’s Philippines) has said it has signed agreements with the Manila and Pasay City governments for the employment of senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) in McDonald’s branches in these cities.
The initiative, I believe, actually started in McDonald’s in the US last year and was carried over here. The US market was ripe for it, considering that younger people were reportedly no longer interested in working in fast food and similar industries, and that a lot of older people were looking for means to boost their pension and retirement savings.
In Pasay City, the company commitment was to hire at least two senior citizens and one PWD in all stores, after given them training as “order presenter, drink drawer, table manager or overall guest relations.” I believe the same commitment was made to Manila, and McDonald’s Philippines added that it was looking at similar agreements with more cities.
I have long been advocating for what I refer to as “anti-retirement,” or for people to retire not by age but by choice. This is considering that even at an advanced age, a lot of people are still interested, willing, and capable of productive work. Also, there is great pressure on the pension system now, which can be partly addressed by pushing back retirement age.
As I had noted in a previous column, for the Philippine military and police services, the mandatory retirement age is 56, or 35 years of service. On the other hand, the US Army has raised the retirement age from active service from 55 to 62, and the age limit for enlistment from 34 to 39. Retirement pay requires at least 20 years of active service. So, with the new age limits, one can still opt to enlist at 38 and then retire with a pension at 58. Can we not do the same here?
After all, we have no mandatory retirement ages for presidents, vice-presidents, senators, congressmen, and Cabinet members, or appointed heads of agencies. While in the Philippine judiciary, the mandatory retirement age is 70. But at the US Supreme Court, and all other US federal courts, there is no mandatory retirement age.
However, of those who decide to retire voluntarily, available online data indicate an average age of 78. In this line, can we not raise to at least 75 our own judiciary’s retirement age? Moreover, if we believe that members of our judiciary can still function productively and effectively until 70, why should the rest of the government bureaucracy retire at 65?
Of course, mandatory retirement age will have to depend on the type and volume of work required from an individual. In this line, studies and research should be done to help set a baseline as well as a standard that can be applied across the board in certain industries. Benchmarking will help in this regard, particularly in relation to professional or intellectual work.
Let us consider the practices in other countries, for this revolution of seniors is a worldwide phenomenon. In Australia, the retirement age is reportedly to be increased gradually to 67 from 65 by July 2023. In Belgium, the retirement age is also to be increased gradually to 67 by 2030. In France, the minimal retirement age has gradually increased from 60 to 62, and the full retirement age is to be increased gradually to 67 by 2023.
In Germany, the retirement age is to be increased gradually to 67 by 2029. In Denmark, the retirement age will be increased gradually to 67 by 2022. And from 2030 onwards, it will be increased a maximum of one year every five years, depending on increases in average lifespan. In Ireland, Taiwan, and Japan, the retirement age is to be increased gradually to 68 years.
European civil servants retire at the age of 66 since 2014. And in the United States, retirees are eligible to receive reduced Social Security payments by 62, while people 65 and over are eligible to receive some free Medicare benefits if they paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years. The full retirement age is to be increased gradually by 2023 and will be 67 for everyone born in 1960 or later.
As I had argued in a previous column, raising the retirement age can ease the pressure on public and private pension systems, as well as the pressure on the public welfare system. But more important is the fact that it can also improve independence and self-reliance as well as combat loneliness among the elderly, and boost their morale and the sense of self-worth.
When I was a teen and McDonald’s just newly opened in Makati, it was a source of pride for most of our peers to be working at McDonald’s as part-time crew. We would go into the store to eat, but also watch with envy our “working” friends who were earning money for themselves. That was then, when fast foods were populated mainly by teens.
Nowadays, places like McDonald’s are populated mostly by seniors, especially in the mornings. Mall-based stores, particularly on weekdays, rarely have students in them. Students are all in school. But seniors are all over the place, having meals, reading the newspaper, and hanging with other seniors. In this sense, I guess it is only appropriate that McDonald’s have more seniors working in the place.
Kudos again to McDonald’s for taking the initiative to employ particularly seniors and PWDs. These marginalized sectors need all the help they can get. But the question now is whether other cities will follow Manila’s and Pasay’s lead and sign a similar agreement with the chain. And, will other businesses also follow suit? Can we expect more companies and industries to start rehiring retirees?
Marvin Tort is a former managing editor of BusinessWorld, and a former chairman of the Philippines Press Council.