Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering

Motion to raise the retirement age of Civil Servants to 60 years generates intense debate

The motion was moved by Ugyen Dorji, Dewathang-Gomdar constituency MP for the government to institute a system of reviewing the retirement age of civil servants from time to time; and to raise the retirement age for all categories of civil servants to 60 years.

He cited examples of how the SAARC member nations had raised the age of retirement in recent times, like in case of India to 60 years, China 55 years previously to 60 years, Pakistan 60 years to 63 years, Bangladesh 57 years to 59 years and Maldives and Afghanistan at 65 years of age.

He addressed the parliament that, as Bhutan is developing as a nation the life expectancy has risen up to an average of 77 years and proposed the house to consider reviewing the retirement age.

He said that currently there are four categories for the retirement age.

The motion was submitted considering that early retirement age affected the retention of vastly experienced employees who could still serve the nation efficiently and also considering the post-retirement benefit for most civil servant retiree was only  an ample amount to sustain life in retirement.

The motion also emphasized as to how retiring at an early age also adds to the pool of existing unemployment; and post retirement trauma (psychological) and leads to an adverse impact on GNH society.

 The session vastly emphasized on if early age retirement or late retirement had an influence on the unemployment scenario.

Yeshey Dem, Khamaed Lunana MP, stressed on how the unemployment rate among youth keeps increasing every year. She cited that this year there were about 4400 graduates who applied for the preliminary examination (PE), out of which 800 abstained from undertaking the exam. She added, “There was intake for only 595 people, which adds up another 4,000 people to the unemployed population who have to look for jobs elsewhere.”

She said that yearly the unemployment rate has been increasing at around 10% and addressed the house that early age retirement could open up more slots for the youth.

The MP stated that if the youth can be given opportunity to work in the civil service sector and the experienced retirees could work in the private sector perhaps that would be good for private sector development.

 Nganglam MP, Choida Jamtsho seconded the motion and said that old age dependency ratio in Bhutan is at 8.8% as people are being labeled old at 56 or 58 years old. He cited the example of how the shortage of doctors who have expertise and experience have to step down at an early age, when instead they could still serve the nation for few more years efficiently. He cited example of Japan’s retirement age at 63 and 65 years categorically and said that for Bhutan too, it would be ideal if the retirement age was at least set to 60 years.

 Dil Maya Rai,Tashichhoeling MP added that there is concern with youth unemployment as the current unemployment rate is at 12% and said that there are a lot of unemployed graduates.

She stated that post-retirement benefit should not have been a concern as the civil servants who retire will have already served tenure of 2 to 4 decades and in that span if they were not financially secured, it was due to financial irresponsibility of an individual.

She added, “The current generation is tech-savvy and the elders need to step down to give the youth a chance in to the digital era, or else the ways of working could become obsolete.”

She added that even after retirement there are still job avenues for such experienced and expertise if one wishes to continue working.

 Kinga Penjor, Gangzur Minjey MP said that the current trend for people seeking jobs is vastly focused on civil service and the MP stated that even if one serves as a civil servant for 15 to 20 years, it would be enough for one person to experience and gain expertise. He added that in the previous decades the average age of graduates or working population was at around 27 years but due to early admission in the current times, a youth is job-ready at an age as early as 20 years.

He added, “In keeping with the current times the youth should be given more preference as in their early years, a person has more zest, passion and is well suited to work actively with the ongoing working trends.”

He stated that the elderly could step down and look for other avenues to work at which could be even better than civil service. 

Adding to the intent of the motion, the Foreign Minister addressed the house that determining age for retirement can be categorical in accordance to the lack of expertise and a person’s beneficial service towards the nation.

Lyonpo added, “Secondly, the determining variant would be the nature of work and yes I think not just 60 but even if we extend to 65 years, it would be right in case of some professions like doctors, engineers, teachers- which the nation lacks in expertise, however in order to have compact-efficient governance there should not be a one-size-fits-all age solution for retirement.”

The Prime Minister acknowledged the house on the importance of the matter being discussed. Lyonchhen said that the recommendations could have arisen as previously the retiree age was determined to be at the current age since the life expectancy was around 47 years and now it is around 71 years or so.

The Prime Minister added, “Yes there are a handful of good example of neighboring countries being presented earlier like in case of Thailand, Maldives or Japan and yes, the retiring age will be determined primarily with the increasing life expectancy.”

Lyonchhoen added, “Other things that determine the age of retiree are social security system, economic condition, unemployment status and importance of the expertise of a person to the nation.”

The PM said that to make amendments to the Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations (BCSR) is not in the governments’ jurisdiction and even if the motion was approved there would be a need to reroute it through alternate submission.

After a series of to and fro suggestions and views at the parliament on Wednesday, the house did not pass the motion to raise the retirement age of Civil Servants to 60 years, as the voting results stood at par with 17 yes and 17 nos, while 6 out of the 40 members abstained their votes.

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