What a way to make a living

BBC Breakfast devoted last week to a daily series of discussions and reports on Britain’s older people, culminating in Friday’s programme on staying in work beyond the retirement age.

Like much of Breakfast’s output, the content was a mix of the relevant and the “wtf?!”

But one pertinent point that emerged chimed rather neatly with my blog of earlier this month about the changing landscape of work and how many of us wander very far from the career we started out in.

Mind you, reporter John Maguire’s example of the banker turned artisan baker made me laugh like a drain at first, then get a tad pissed off at just how twee and middle-class the BBC often is – 2 mins or so into the link above.

Seriously, how many bankers do you know who have chucked in a gilded life in the City to create hand-hewn loaves?

Career changes are more likely to be forced upon us, through redundancy, ill-health or different personal circumstances. The power over any change is also most likely to be out of our hands, too.

For those – to use an old phrase – white collar workers, there may not be the same physical toll in asking them to keep keeping on until they’re 70, though mental burnout can be every bit as debilitating.commitment

But it’s a very different prospect for those who do the hard grind, the physical labour that can be eased but never replaced by technology – firefighters, joiners, labourers, care workers, nurses, porters and the rest.

Somewhere, some bright spark is currently devising a way to extract vast sums of money from the state for the pleasure of “retraining” individuals or “reimagining” occupations so everyone is doing “something” – we’re just not sure that what they’re doing has a point.

Early retirement, once the dream of everyone who had to knock their pan in doing a job they are more likely to have endured rather than enjoyed, is certainly no longer an option for most over 50s and even those on the other side of 60.

Like a lot of the good things they were lucky enough to take for granted – free university education, secure employment, home ownership where prices inexorably rise, plentiful, affordable rental accommodation – the Baby Boomers have probably gubbed early retirement for their kids and grandkids by living long beyond the age their pensions were actually planned for.

Still, there has to be an upside to having to work until you drop.

I just can’t think of one right now.

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