Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Mandatory Retirement in Universities

The University of Toronto has negotiated an end to mandatory retirement.

The University of Toronto has reached a tentative deal with its faculty association to end the school's policy of mandatory retirement for professors and librarians. The deal would allow academic staff to keep their full-time positions past the age of 65.

If it is ratified, faculty members who turn 65 after June 30 of this year will no longer be bound by the school's current mandatory retirement rule. The university says the policy change will help the school keep valued staff members who would otherwise move on.

"Many of our faculty [members] are engaged in active research programs," said Angela Hillyard, U of T's vice-president of human resources.

"They still want to teach, they still provide huge benefits to our students, and we were losing eople to other institutions, elsewhere in Canada and in the States, that didn't have mandatory retirement."

So now tenured faculty members must be retained, at their current salaries with basic raises, until they keel over? If so, look for massive buyout programmes.

A much more sensible policy would be to eliminate mandatory retirement but with the proviso that tenure is revoked at age 65. Then the universities could negotiate different arrangements with different faculty members, depending on their expected productivity. But faculty unions usually object to more productive professors' getting better deals, and so, as sensible as it seems, my proposal probably will never be implemented at any major Canadian university.

An interesting note about this announcement is that the University of Toronto has a defined benefits pension plan, and so keeping faculty members on the job after age 65 will not cost the university the full amount of their salaries because the university will not have to pay them pensions while they are working; here at the University of Western Ontario, we have a defined contributions pension plan -- if we keep on working past age 65, the university must pay the full salary, and it gets no offsetting benefit from our not drawing a pension.

For more on life-long tenure, see the Becker-Posner blog here, and the Emirates Economist here.

I hope we eliminate mandatory retirement here; I'd like to teach until I'm 90.
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