Resistance to Compulsory Retirement
President Kennedy's recommendation, in his economic message to Congress on February 3, that the Social Security Act be amended to permit working men as well as working women to retire on reduced benefits at the age of 62 is in line with growing pressure for flexibility in setting the age of retirement. But much of the demand for flexibility comes from older workers who, rather than wanting to retire early, wish to keep on working beyond the standard retirement age of 65. The desire for later retirement conforms with expert opinion on the psychological, social and economic effects of compelling able and willing workers to quit their jobs solely because they have reached a certain chronological age.
Adoption of the administration's proposal would serve the immediate purpose of providing income for those workers in their early 60s now unemployed who have little prospect of finding new jobs. Many of these persons presumably suffer from physical handicaps likely to bar them from future employment but not severe enough to entitle them to disability benefits under the Social Security system. However, federal provision for retirement at age 62 might have effects different from those intended. Availability of benefits at 62 might prompt employers to retire certain workers three years earlier than would be the case if the age of eligibility for Social Security benefits remained at 65.
Rising Demand for Flexible Retirement Age
Public concern for the economic welfare of the country's older people has given rise to contradictory pressures with regard to the age of retirement. On the one hand are proposals to remove barriers to the employment of persons able to work beyond the conventional retirement age; on the other hand are proposals for improvements in pension benefits which would encourage earlier retirement. The apparent paradox is explained by growing recognition that there are wide differences in the rates at which the physical and mental capacities of old persons decline, and wide differences in their economic and psychological needs for useful work.