Tory plan for Brexit labour problems? Half price pensioners!

So that’s it folks. No room for the elderly to put their feet up after a lifetime of work. Its off to the farms for you to get the carrots in!

The papers have been full of reports this week about the shortage of staff particularly in agriculture, social care and hospitality that will be caused by ill thought ou,t new immigration policies.

But don’t despair, the Tories have a cunning plan. They have worked out that there are 8 million people who are economically inactive in the UK and they believe that those people could replace the young fit Europeans who will no longer be able to enter our Country.

A very large number of those are people who have retired and had some hope of spending their remaining years in a good rest. After a lifetime looking after children, grandchildren and often now their parents they naively thought that the Government might happily pay them pension to live in dignity.

The Tories have other ideas. Apparently, you oldies (the description of which includes me) have so much time on your hands that you could and should be using it for the benefit of post-Brexit Britain. They have, however, spotted a slight flaw with this idea. Apparently, we old folk won’t be as productive as the young uns! We’ve got a bit arthritic and our knees aren’t quite what they used to be! So, who would possibly want to employ us? So, they have a little scheme for this. Change the minimum wage requirements so that pensioners can work for half price.

What a joy this will be! Getting up at 5.30 a.m. in the summer to get the carrots and strawberries in. Learning to become a barrista to dole out coffee to the young. Strengthening those biceps so that you can lift those who are even older that you so that you can clean them. Are you as excited about this as the Tories are? Probably not! Neither am I.

I suppose that if you are Jacob Rees-Smug all this seems very obvious. Insulated as they are by inherited money, they have no real understanding of how ordinary folk live. Their children are looked after by nannies, their eccentric maiden aunts are confined to the attic or care homes and if they are unable to cope with household duties. If they want something to do with a spot of spare time, they ensure that they get put on a Board which gives them a nice little earner.

So, let me give them a lesson in what ordinary folk do when they start hitting 50 upwards with increasing intensity when they move into retirement

  • We care for the children in our family allowing their mums and dads to go to work.
  • We care for the elderly in our family by looking after them as their mental and physical health declines.
  • We volunteer for all sorts of this by running charity shops, churches and charities
  • We use our life experiences to serve on school governing bodies, charitable trusts and offer free services to those coming up behind us.

We don’t ask for payment for most of these activities although expenses would be nice. These things add hugely to the productivity of our Country. It means that young people can go to work; that the NHS and councils are saved a fortune in care and medical charges; they ensure that charities function and can do their necessary works within our society. You want to pay us 50% of the minimum wage for doing these things? Great because that 100% more than we get now!

Society in this Country simply would not function without the work lovingly and without compulsion given by those of pensionable age who work as long as they possibly can. I often thing of my late Aunt, Aunty Peg. At the age of 86 she would tell me how she was off to a hospital to do work with the Women’s Institute looking after the ‘old folk!” That’s the true spirit of Britain. Not nasty bigoted people who cannot see how to do anything without making a personal profit from but people like Aunty Peg whose life was about caring and from which they get a great personal and mental benefit from their work putting support in to a wider society.

Put simply pensioners are not going to be doing any of the jobs that I mentioned earlier. Some older people find work because they need the money or just love being out and about doing things. Others just are pleased to support an elderly relative or a growing clutch of young people and do not expect to be told that they are letting their country down by not doing more.

Picking carrots, selling coffee, providing intense social care is something that needs to be done by younger people. We warned continually that Brexit would mean that there would be gaps in a range of jobs from brain surgeons to carrot pickers. We were right. It was all so foreseeable. However, the answer to these shortages must be an intelligent immigration policy which meets the Country’s needs and not the right wingers’ prejudices.

Those of us in the third age do our bit in and for society. Just don’t make us do things for which our bodies are no longer fit for purpose!

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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