x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Early retirements rise by nearly a quarter

More Emiratis decided to retire early last year than the previous year, official statistics show.

DUBAI // The number of Emiratis who retired early increased by 23 per cent in the past year, a rise that officials said hindered efforts to bring more nationals into the workforce.

Muzaffar al Haj, the director general of the General Pension and Social Security Authority, said early retirement decreases the number of competent, trained and experienced Emirati workers who had reached a level of maturity in their careers.

The number of early retirements in 2010 was 693 out of a 1,068 retirees, the authority revealed on its website. In 2009, 389 retired early out of 1,100, the authority reported.

Early retirement refers to men who leave work before the age of 60, and to women who retire before 55. Emiratis who work for 25 years can collect as much as 80 per cent of their salary upon retirement. Those who work for 30 years can get 90 per cent, and those who work for 35 years can get their full pension.

Although Emiratis decide to retire mainly for personal reasons, experts said it hurts the country's Emiratisation efforts.

"I am personally against the concept of early retirement because we started building our nation 40 years ago and we need to foster the fruits of our labour and use the experiences that we gain," said Dr Fatima al Sayegh, an Emirati professor of history and society at UAE University.

"I often tell individuals who have reached the end for one reason or the other to be patient. We have to be patient. Local talent is best able to overcome obstacles and challenges because they understand how their country works, and they would be doing it for their country."

In spite of the rise, Mr al Haj noted that early retirement had dropped by 78 per cent over the past four years in general. He said that in 2006 there were 1,795 cases of early retirement, while in 2009 there were only 389 cases. Comparing statistics from 2006 with 2010, he said, early retirement had dropped by 61 per cent.

However, he stressed the importance of reducing these numbers even further by encouraging workers to retire at a later age.

"The reasons why people are opting for an early retirement have to be carefully studied so that they can be tackled," Dr al Sayegh said. "Some of the reasons why people may want to retire early could be related to the atmosphere at their workplace, a lack of appreciation or the compensation they receive, which would compel them to consider leaving the workforce."

Najat Shahin, a 40-year-old Emirati who works as a school director's assistant, said she would not consider retiring early because she enjoyed working, with 19 years of experience under her belt.

"I still have more energy in me, but I understand that not everyone has the same capacity or circumstances," Ms Shahin said. "I know for a fact that a lot of women in the teaching field have the desire to retire early, and some of the reasons they cite are longer working hours, marginal increases in their salary throughout the years and family circumstances that may require them to stay at home with ageing parents, for example."

Maryam, a 45-year-old who declined to give her full name, works in the Ministry of Education, said she planned to retire this year.

"I think 45 is the suitable age for women to retire because the more a woman ages, the less likely she has the ability to be productive," she said.

"If a woman can retire at 40 it will be even better, because at that age a woman reaches a countdown and may not be as productive as other females in their twenties or thirties. Also, there are a lot of youths who do not have a job, so if we retire at this age, we give the opportunity for the younger generation to fill our place and contribute to the society."

Haleema Rashed, 24, who works at a federal organisation, said she would like to retire early so she could raise a family.

"I think early retirement should be optional for both genders, whereby both the employer and employee should come to an agreement ... this will be useful for employees with health and family problems," she said.

According to the pension authority's statistics, the number of retirees and others who were eligible for retirement funds as beneficiaries reached 27,500 last year. Retirees constituted 25,000 of them. The authority paid Dh1.2 billion last year as pension for retirees and other beneficiaries.

balqabbani@thenational.ae