Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Zambian workers unhappy with President Sata’s directive to extend retirement age


File:Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) Secretary General Roy Mwaba addresses journalists at Courtyard hotel in Lusaka

By Mr.Roy Mwaba

The Zambia Congress of Trade Unions is disappointed with the approach taken by government to review the current statutory retirement age from 55 years to 65 years. Consideration to review the current statutory retirement age follows the Presidential directive to which the Ministry of Justice has already drafted the pensions Amendment Bills.

After wider consultations with affiliate members and Zambian workers in general, the Congress noted that the principle of consultation with main stakeholders such as workers representatives was greatly undermined in this process because the unions and employers were only given the opportunity to make contributions after the process of reviewing the retirement age had advanced.

In addition,the spirit of the review of the retirement age is closed and not accommodating contrary views.

In view of this, ZCTU does not consider the extension of the statutory retirement age from 55 years to 65 years as merited because there is no strong case so far advanced by Government to justify the revision of the statutory retirement age from 55 years to 65 years. In line with this, ZCTU has identified a number of factors that need to be taken into account before considering extension of the statutory retirement age to 65 years.

One of the factors to consider is the life expectancy. Life expectancy is not a mere statistic but should guide policy makers especially social security schemes to determine the appropriate retirement age which reflects realities on the ground.

Official statistics from CSO (2009) estimates life expectancy at 52 years while the UNDP report for 2011 estimates life expectancy at 47.3 years. Generally, the statistics show that even the current retirement age of 55 years is higher than the life expectancy of a common Zambian.

What this implies is that even at the current statutory retirement age, a number of employees die before retirement, denying them the opportunity to enjoy their pension benefits. It is a known fact that the attrition rates are high even for public service workers where teachers alone accounted for 11,443 in 2009 (2009 Education Bulletin) partly due to high death rates. This brings to question any likelihood that a higher minimum retirement age would lead to people working longer, translating in greater economic output.

This could explain why the retirement age in developed countries is set below the average life expectancy and not above. Examples would include Sweden where the statutory state pension age ranges between 61 and 70 years, with a life expectancy of 80 years and the United Kingdom where the state pension age is 65 years with life expectancy of 79 years.

In this regard, it is our view that increasing the retirement age is likely motivated by intentions to enhance solvency of pension systems because by implication there will be no retirement payments for the next ten years. What is overlooked, however, is the number of people that will possibly die before enjoying their benefits as a result of the extended period.

It can be estimated that over 6 million workers would die without enjoying the benefits of their lifetime hard work.

We note that currently, no one is prevented to continue working even after attaining the statutory retirement age of 55 years. It is not illegal to employ someone who has reached retirement age, the reason why statistics from the 2008 Labour Force Survey indicate a high participation rate for people above the statutory retirement age with over 470,000 people above the age of 55 years still actively employed.

Further, we cannot ignore the challenge of Youth Unemployment when considering extending the retirement age. There is no shortage of skills among the younger generation required to replace the elderly so as to warrant an extension of the retirement age. We have a number of qualified personnel already active and contributing to the development process.

Besides, there is a large number of unemployed youth graduates still looking for employment; about 70 percent of youth with degrees are unemployed (LFS, 2008). For the employed, a large proportion of the youths are in informal jobs where they have no social security coverage.

In this regard, Government’s focus should be to enhance social security packages and introduce financial management training to adequately empower retirees. Social security schemes should provide financial services such as business loans and mortgages to enable workers prepare for the time they would be out of employment.

Increasing the statutory retirement age in the absence of a revamped social security system will simply mean more people will even die before they reach the statutory retirement age than is currently the case. Equally important, there is need to improve service delivery in terms of health, education and sanitation in order to raise life expectancy to justify the change in retirement age.

Currently, the majority of the workers are in the informal sector and are not covered by social security schemes. Thus, the statutory retirement age only applies to a few formal sector workers estimated to be about 500,000 from the working population of about 4,600,000.

The majority of all workers, constituting about 90 percent of the total working population fall outside social security schemes. The worry of government in this regard should be to address the growing informality where an increasing number of people have no social safety nets rather than focus on a few formal sector workers already covered under social security schemes.

Alternatively there is need for a thorough assessment of the current pension system to consider best options of improving the schemes.
There have been long standing debates about the current arrangement of our pension system. One of the issues to be addressed is harmonising
the legislations. There is also need to harmonise the benefits structure and apply a common formula to standardise the benefits, and also ensure that no same category of employees contribute to different schemes; the case of teachers currently.

Alternatively, options should be given for early retirement. We note that only the PSPF Amendment Bill provides options for personnel in the Defence Forces, the Police Force, and Prison Service to retire on or after attaining the age of 45 years or after completing 20 years’ service. It is appropriate to extend such provisions to other workers covered under NAPSA and LASF. In this regard, ZCTU is proposing 55 years for early retirement or after completing 30 years’ service,with 60 years as mandatory retirement age.

In light of the above, we note that the government’s intention to increase the retirement age has not been done with adequate analysis of the current pension system to warrant an extension. No substantial justification has been advanced by government to extend the current statutory retirement age. In turn, this has generally been understood as a plan to create solvency in pension schemes because no retirees will be eligible for pension benefits in the next ten years.

Consequently, Government will not have the problem of paying retirees for the next ten years.In addition, not all of the people who could be due for pension benefits under the current system would be able to live up to 65 years and claim their benefits.

On this basis, ZCTU does not support the review of the retirement age from 55 years to 65 years. Our suggested option is to consider 55 years or completion of 30 years in service as early retirement and 60 years as a mandatory retirement age. Although we know that Zambia has one of the lowest statutory retirement age in the region, the decision to extend the statutory retirement age should be founded on justifiable empirical evidence. If the intention is to harmonise our statutory retirement age with that prevailing within the region, a comparative study within the region should inform such a decision. We cannot treat the retirement age like an import product. A systematic approach must be instituted to warrant such change.


  1. Yes, I agree with ZCTU. When does one do his/her own things after earning money. Working for people is a bore indeed. One needs to work for themselves.

  2. i agree with ZCTU, its very irreponsible for old Sata to plan to extend the retirement age so that he could accmodate his old frends into govt and civil service!! them old chaps av worked, so they shud retire and us young ones shud be allowed to take thier positions!!

    PF is realy an experimental Govt, life expectance is abt 48 how then wud u peg retirement age above the life expectnace? So Sata dazent want Zambian workers to retire and get the pension benefits? wat type of a presdient is that who wudnt want his citizens to benefit form their service?
    In Zambia few pipo reach 60! many die below 60, even Mwanawasa died at 59, he didnt manage to reach 60! now this Comedian President want to put retirement age to 65, is he crazy or mad? Us youths neeed jobs!

  3. i didn’t even finish reading this article because it annoys the depths of my spirit. In china folk retire at 70 no wonder china is where it is today. Personally i want to work untill i’m 80, i want to be productive. 55 is just too young an age to retire talented people in zambia. My old man was retired at 54 in 2006 with full benefits but today he complains about boredom.

  4. Wrong ZCTU. The President is right. It make sense, tax payers dollars will be saved once rehiring retiries cease . in the developed countries people work until they can’t walk. If we need to see economical development we have to go with the presidents strategy

  5. @ Damn,

    u are as damn as your name! iwe chikala if old Sata puts the retiremnt age at 65, wen do u expect these youths at various colleges to join the civil service and releave them old chaps! It is also a way of empowering citizens if more pipo retire to go out and work themselves! 
    obviously iwe chikala u av a job, well some of us dont have jobs, the sooner some old chaps go, the ealier some youth somewhere gets a job!

    Employment creation is not just all abt creating new jobs, it also calls for replacing the old with the new!

  6. I totally agree with Roy’s analysis. Sata wants to run away from paying retirees for the next 10 years. He is running away from his campaign promises

    • So is Cameron in the uk its best for the country Germany has done the same and look at the economy, Mwamba is a dum leader he is only looking at the bad side

  7. Is sata not alive to the fact that when old people or vehicles congest the front then everything slows down? There is very high unemployment rate and the need to decongest the streets, not the 65yrs rubbish!


  9. These statistics include those in poverty those who dont work and babies who die before the age of 5, the life expectancy of those in employment must be high, lets compare with developed countries who fully utilise the skills of their citizens,people still go to uni at the age of 50 cause they know they will still work, we have seen very intelligent people still energetic ready to serve but forced to retire, while they still have school going children,thats why we have alot of over 60s working on contract, I work with Engineers who are over 60 and they peform really well, I suggest an option should be given to the worker to retire or work up to 65, I am sure those who will opt to go at 55 will be looking for a job after a year or two

  10. People must be asked , whether they want to continue after attaining the age of 55 or get their dues. Not every one would like to continue working just as not every one would like to retire at 55. Give people a choice while making it law that one can only officially retire after 65. It should not be mandatory as people have different aspirations in life. While its true that some people still have alot to offer even at 55 years old many, may wish to retire and work for themselves.

  11. a Zambian population of about 13 million has less than 2million exceptionally skilled people. retiring people quite early needs that the government is prepared to fill up those gups with equally or more skilled people. people are free to apply for early retirement if they wish. In Zambia we dont have a pension that people continue receiving but we have a package that they are paid once and for all. So if one retires early, one runs a danger of finishing all his/her money before death.   

  12. Setting the retirement age to 65 years is better than the 55 years Roy Mwaba ia talking about. Roy has left out important statistics like the percentage of educated people in the countries he has mentioned. Zambia does not have enough educated people to develop this country. I live in a city where 30% of the population is either university or college educated but they are still accepting skilled immigrants from our countries and they have made it optional for people to retire at 65. What does a retiree in Zambia do apart from looking for another job or “farming”, nothing! They just become liabilities after retiring. We need the retirement age to be upped period. As for the life expectancy, one of the reasons is retiring early and living in perpetual poverty.

  13. Gentlemen i think there is a lot of sense in extending the retirement age to 65. Actually the retirement age for professionals like university professors should even be extended to 75 because you don’t get these quite often. Warren Buffet is 82 and he’s still working full time, Rupert murdoch the same, hugh hefner another example. It is unfair to retire civil servants at 55, and allow a politician to serve at 74, it does not make sense at all. At 55 someone is still energetic and full of creativity, we shouldn’t be discouraging creativity among our citizens by shelving their talent at the mere age of 55. Each time I see my dad sitting at home depliting his benefits without income it really disturbs me, he’s a soviet union trained political economist put to waste.

  14. In one of the parastatals the MD said that he wanted new blood, what does the president say? Okay don’t answer, a CEO can be overruled by the president, just as he overruled his own cabinet minister over street vendors, go and sell full time anytime anywhere.

  15. ……….the other fact Roy does not seem to understand is that as a union mother body, the should enlighten unions so that they are aware of what is happening in other countries. ZCTU should fight for a better salary structure where a worker does not have to wait for a retirement package to buy a car or build a house but should be renumerated adequately to be able to save something at the end of the month for retirement. This is the bone of contention priod!

  16. Something has to be done to keep the dinosaurs in power. Life expectancy is 47 to 52; a good number will die in service.
    This makes sure that the old keep their jobs and the youth remain unemployed.
    Well done GRZ. Zambia has been moving from bad to worse since independence, why change now? 

  17. Are we not supposed to be doing the things that raise the life expectancy first before raising the retirement age to 18 years higher than the current life expectancy?

  18. If this governemnet has run out of ideas so early let them hand over power back to RB. From the debates going on in this country on this subject matter, it is clear the majority have rejected the government’s position on this matter.I am sure this is not a dictatorship but a democracy. we can only rely on our gallant opposition MP’s to shoot down this if and when it goes to parliamnet.

  19. If this governemnet has run out of ideas so early let them hand over power back to RB. From the debates going on in this country on this subject matter, it is clear the majority have rejected the government’s position on this matter.I am sure this is not a dictatorship but a democracy. we can only rely on our gallant opposition MP’s to shoot down this if and when it goes to parliament.

  20. Teach people to save for retirement and establish a system that pays them a monthly amount rather than the one time lump some that lasts for a few months

  21. Nothing wrong with retiring at 65 years, too much laziness pa Zed, government should also invest more in better Health Care as well!!

  22. There is everything wrong people, the reason the age was reduced was to support the “go back to the land” program by KK. He wanted pipo to retire in good health and contribute by farming, now we have a president who gives a rat a$$ about agri-economy. PF is only delying payments of the pension because they know they can’t pay as they said during their compaigns. @Jayjay, its the opposite pipo work more on farming than filing in GRZ offices. @ pounds, the UK’s standard of living age is higher than Zambia, thats why you are there. Pipo life expentency is lower in Zambia how do you send pipo to go die after retirement. Sata is dictator, becoz all stakeholders like ZCTU was supposed to be involved in the beginning not now. Just admit your president has messed up again!

  23. Ahah we are always wishing to die early kwena eehh its true that our life expectancy is low but we need to move on to see better days. We need to push the GRZ to pour more resources in our beleguared health care system. We need to move forward not all the time fearing to die at a tender age!

  24. Dont be that daft to compare zambia with other countries, zed’s life style is unique, life expectancy is low so what the point of contributing towards ur retirement if majority wont make it? En its not the president wo determines retirement age sata jzt bulldozed the whole thing.

  25. Sata honestly does not deserve my vote! Sata nad PF are bent on saving their pockets because they have extended this retirement age to make provisions for HIMSELF and their henchmen like the Chief Justice e.t.c.

    Which Zambian can go up to 65 with this poverty and HIV/AIDS pandemic? Sata wants to sentence all Zambian WORKERS and their BENEFICIARIES to PERMANENT POVERTY since they wont get their BENEFITS before they die/retire? Sata and PF government leaders are conmen; who lied that they will solve all problems in 90 days! What a lie!

    And here we are now, they want to con all Zambian Employees!

  26. Sata is right Ba fikalour pa zed u are too lazy 55 is too young most of those people at ministry of health at ndeke house and education are infact above 55 so even if the current law says 55 it’s still not obeyed. Imagine Retiring HH he is 56. But he can still be an effective manager. Do business for your self if u don’t want to be forced to retire

  27. 65 even 55 years is to much to work for someone, when will somebody be their own bosses. Let those who feel they can still work when they are 50 to form their own consultancy firms thus leaving room for younger brains while employing others. Too much of holding on to the few jobs available insansa to cijanya

  28. ZCTU has a point based on empirical evidence. What point is there in extending the retirement age from 55 to 65 when u know most people die before they reach 50? The pension system should also be revised. This system of waiting for your pension contributions until u retire is not helpful, other countries incorporate part of your package into some annual payment, money that u can use while u still have the energy and ideas. The Zambian system makes people work for uncles and other vultures to come and enjoy your money after u’re dead. The PF should not drag people in this case, they dont have a strong case to advance towards their decision. What are they trying to achieve when more than 72% of Zambians are still unemployed. They want to increase the unemployment rate?

  29. Ba Zambia you dont listen you were just out for change you got the change so accept what comes along with it no complaints please pa bwato??????????????

  30. 55 years old is still a young age, therefore it is right to extend it. How many Zambians do anything with their little pensions? Thats why you end up with retirees who are broke and helpless half their lives. why retire at that age when infact those are people you need with more experience to learn from but instead you retire them, thats ridiculous. You dont need to retire to go and work for yourself, thats the mistake most Zambians are makung, they think they can do a business after retiring, i have news for you sicne you are not experienced the chances f your business failing are high and guess what your pension is gone and you are broke. How many of you guys have relatives who have been down that road? If you want to have a business you start early not after retirement yall!!

  31. Only the lazy people are talking about retiring @55. Retirment doesnt mean go and start a business, it means enjoy your fruits of labour. No wonder most of our old folks become beggars with mentalities like this. They retire and have no dignity, your retirement or pension money is not your business caoptial you fools!! Oh please!!

  32. Those who are unemployed should not be banking on taking jobs left by retirees. New jobs should be created for those who lack jobs.

  33. I’m no longer certain where you’re getting your information, however great topic. I needs to spend some time finding out more or working out more. Thanks for fantastic information I was looking for this info for my mission.

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