Across the advanced capitalist world, neoliberal policies have concerted to consign the welfare state to history’s dustbin. As a pillar of the social state, economic security in retirement was an inevitable target.
Pensions sufficient to keep a majority of retirees from growing old in poverty have everywhere been assailed as a luxury the planet’s wealthiest nations can ill afford – especially since, alas, workers have begun to live longer. One of the opening salvos in this attack came from the World Bank in the mid-1990s, with a report urging a shift to mandatory privately managed pension schemes – a recommendation aptly described by one commentator as a plan for forced contributions by working people to the private pension industry.
In Canada, the neoliberal right and its minions in the mainstream media likewise intone that an aging population makes decent state and company-provided pensions unaffordable and that the solution to the “retirement crisis” lies in greater privatization. As Canadian pension expert Monica Townson has observed, demographic data is paraded as a pretext to push a political agenda.
With pension summits now being held right, left, and centre, Canadian Dimension is joining the discussion with this special feature on pensions. In it, our contributors highlight the labour movement’s struggles to preserve its historic gains (Gaetan Menard), outline the Canadian Labour Congress’s proposals for a reform of the Canada Pension Plan (Joel Hardin/CLC), consider the dim retirement prospects of precarious workers (Andrea Levy), and challenge conventional conceptions of retirement with a proposition for the redistribution of free time throughout working life (Sam Gindin).
This article appeared in the May/June 2010 issue of Canadian Dimension (Mayworks).