Hiring retirees to propel transformation agenda

IF retirees were to be selectively re-hired on contract or voluntary basis, would they be worthy an investment? Would they be an asset or a liability? Above all, wouldn’t they grab and hence, deny the slots reserved for the deservedly teeming and active youth? Hadn’t the retirees had their time already, so why re-absorb them into the active labor farce?

And, wait a minute, are they not technologically deficient? Can they cope with the hectic office routine? Times have changed! Nowadays, unlike the days of our grandparents, retirement from formal employment is not an end to one’s “shelf-life”.

While “shelflives” in formal, salaried employment may cease at 60 or 62 years, we see today’s sexagenarians leading more active lives than ever before. They are more alert, healthier (thus live longer) and potentially more productive than their counterparts of the yesteryears.

To quote the late Pope John XXIII, “Menare like wine-some turn to vinegar (as they grow older), but the best improve with age”. Truly, this is the case with many of today’s retirees. Regrettably, they lack the opportunities to utilize their energies fully.

The assumption that retirees would employ themselves in micro ventures and other familybased businesses is a fallacy. Yes, they may have been the best “people” managers while in office, but they may not necessarily be good financial gurus.

Many businesses are quickly hatched and executed without a deeper analysis of the market dynamics or potential headwinds and challenges that may be encountered. Devoid of business practicalities, many such establishments fail–and as a result, entire retirement benefits may be lost or grossly diminished.

And while a few retirees may re-engage with the private sector, the majority are ‘wasted” for lack of something intuitive and exciting to enable them lead fuller lives. Re-deploying them into the active labor force would be one such life-fulfilling measure. No doubt,retirees would have an invaluable input into our country’s current socio-economic endeavors.

But how can the government afford to re-hire retirees amidst the teeming unemployed graduates? The argument of “unfairness” and “greed” would certainly ensue, wherein the old guard may be “accused”of taking up jobs rightly meant for the youth.

However, this argument is of minor significance today as we increasingly see mature people joining firms for salaried employment at the age which in the past their counterparts used to retire.

Thus, this may be the right time to harness the energies of all Tanzanians, young and old, in order to impart the much needed practical knowledge on the budding professionals and in the process, propel the transformation agenda forward.

This “mixing” will recalibrate our working ethos, embedding us more towards quality, accountability and delivery. The combination of the old and the new, the cool headedness and the dynamic, the unassuming and the bold, the hands-on and the mentees, the “sunsets” and the “sunrises”, and the “analog” and the “digital” would make our working places more potent. It’s this potency, this force, which we badly need to rapidly transform our country.

Modern history tells us that countries take at least a generation (approx. 25 years) to leap from one development ladder to the next. We only have a 7-year timeline to achieve that feat, which poses a monumental challenge. They say the impossible only takes a little longer.

But nothing is impossible as long as we act smartly and fittingly. The selective and effective use of retirees, in key strategic sectors, programs and activities can give the much-needed push to help roll the “socioeconomic wheel’ to the level desired by the Government come 2025. Or at the very least, the country would have laid down a robust economic foundation by then, upon which forthcoming administrations can build on.

Thus, the re-deployment in question would have little impact on the youngsters from assuming their rightful places so long as the objectives and modalities of the re-engagement are clearly spelt out from the outset.

The aim should not be to replace the young professional cadre with the old, but to complement it, especially now as we collectively aspire to transform ourselves to a middle income country (MIC). Transforming a country is a strategic endeavor that requires the physical and brain power of everyone–the in-service and retirees alike.

Perhaps the greatest advantage that retirees have is the exposure and the practical knowledge they have had in concocting workable solutions to address real life issues. practical experience is second to none. It’s unrivalled and unsubstitutable, so why not tap and put it to productive use? There is also no question that old age embodies integrity, an ingredient that is an antidote to corruption and other fraudulent practices.

“Protected” by steady monthly pensions, small as these payments may be, retirees are willing to demand less than what they got when they worked full-time. Besides, retirees are less opportunistic, they lead simpler lifestyles, are attentive and client centric, not easily swayed, do not crave for credit, have negligible family obligations and do not need training or retraining. They would give all what they have to get the job done. And contrary to popular belief, retirees are more disposed to learning new high-tech skills.

In any case, this matter is of lesser importance since our economy is still at a “brick-and-mortar” stage rather than technologybased.

We have retirees of all professional backgrounds– administrators, archivists, bankers, business & property valuers, civil aviation experts, college &university lecturers, computer and information system analysts, development economists, educationists, engineers,geologists, guides, lawyers, media professionals, medical doctors, nurses, policy analysts, project management specialists, security personnel, social scientists, speech writers, sports coaches, urban planners, water supply & sanitation technicians….the list goes on.

Imagine the positive impact that these professionals would have on overall public service delivery, especially in the social services sectors.

Re-engagement of retired teachers for example would greatly improve the quality of instruction and student performance especially at primary and secondary tiers. Remotely located primary schools as well as secondary schools at the Ward and Divisional levels would particularly benefit the most. Retirees would also make good torchbearers in their respective business units.

They would be in the frontline to fix things up, without actually caring as to who gets the credit. Moreover, retirees may take up various mentoring, facilitating, management and advisory roles elsewhere or even teaching positions in higher learning institutions.

Their teachings will imbue practical knowledge with theory. I remember a Professor at the University of Bradford in the UK (John MacArthur) who only had a BSc in Agriculture but tutored and mentored Master’s Degree and PhD students because of his vast field experience in Africa and Asia that gave him a competitive edge over other lecturers. Would our specialized institutes, universities and centers of excellence “trust” and hire such people? It is only a mindset issue.

Actually, they should! Recourse to retirees would also have positive budgetary implication when gauged against foreign or expatriate labor.

Costs involved for hiring foreigners are huge: relocation costs, air travel, language training, high salary (notwithstanding our low cost of living), family allowances, children’s schooling, car, housing, medicare, utilities etc. There are indirect costs as well, including the hiring process itself (which takes long), lost productivity during the settling-in period etc.

On the contrary, retirees know the nitty-gritty of the culture and processes of the local working conditions, do not need any “settling-in”, and enjoy extensive networks that they can easily tap into.

I thus call upon the Government to find suitable and amicable ways to utilize this dormant pool of expertise to its full advantage, instead of letting it to “rot”. We need these people to contribute to our development aspirations.

Don’t you agree?


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