Kenya Considers Lowering Retirement Age to 55 to Boost Youth Employment

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In a bid to create more employment opportunities for the youth in Kenya’s public service sector, the parliamentary Labour Committee is contemplating reducing the mandatory retirement age from the current 60 years to 55. The initiative comes as part of the ongoing discussions around the Public Service Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2023.

The proposed Bill, initially introduced by Embakasi Central MP Benjamin Gathiru, aims to amend the existing Act, emphasizing that no officer should serve in an acting capacity for over six months. However, lawmakers like Kangundo MP Fabian Muli believe that a reduction in the retirement age to 55 is crucial to accommodate the younger workforce.

“We need to think further and lower the age to 55 to make the youth of this country proud,” Muli emphasized. He pledged to propose the age reduction amendment if the committee fails to include it during the legislative process.

Joining the call for reducing the retirement age, Ken Chonga, MP for Kilifi South, emphasized the importance of amending relevant legal provisions regarding the retirement age. He stressed the need to understand the rationale behind the current retirement age of 60 and evaluate the amendments accordingly.

Lunga MP Mangale Munga, supporting the reduction, highlighted the necessity of creating room for young people in the workforce. “Why 60 years? It should be made 55 years old so as to make space for young people,” Munga stated.

Acknowledging the potential impact, Gathiru urged the committee to retain the original intent of the Bill while considering the proposed amendments.

If the amendments are approved, a significant portion of civil servants, anticipated to retire in the next five years, may be able to retire earlier. While this could be beneficial for the youth in terms of employment opportunities, it may pose financial challenges to a government already grappling with a high pension bill.

The mandatory retirement age was raised from 55 to 60 years in 2009 as the government dealt with a growing pension bill. As of December 2021, the National Treasury had disbursed Sh69.22 billion in pension and gratuity payments in just six months.

An audit conducted in 2016 revealed that 35% of national government employees were aged between 51 and 60. Additionally, 3,958 officers left the service across various ministries, departments, and agencies in the 2021/2022 financial year.

The proposed Public Service Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2023, also outlines the rules for acting appointments. It stipulates that an acting appointment should be in favor of a duly qualified and competent public officer and must not delay the appointment or deployment of a suitable individual to the concerned public office. If appointed in an acting capacity without the required qualifications, such appointments would be revoked by the Public Service in Kenya.

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