Should compulsary retirement be introduced in order to ease youth unemployment?

Some people believe that, in order to increase opportunities for the young, companies should encourage high level employees who are older than 55 to retire.
Do you agree or disagree? Give reasons for your answer.

As today’s youth faces chronic unemployment, and members of ‘Generation Y’ face being the first in modern times to experience worse living conditions than their parents, social commentators have been airing suggestions to resolve these issues. One is the idea that companies should progressively encourage older affluent employees to take early retirement, thus leaving space for hiring and promoting younger staff. Whilst it is an idea with which I agree, it is fundamentally flawed without government backing.

There are certainly potential social and business benefits to be gained from a company implementing moving towards a younger workforce. On a wider level, the reduction in youth unemployment and subsequent fall in the national benefits bill improve the state of the wider economy (whereas wealthy older employees are likely to have income-generating property and/or pensions, unemployed youths are often reliant on social security). Meanwhile, within the corporate structure, young employees can bring fresh ideas, lower the wage bill, and possibly fill a vacant role for several decades.

However, the fundamental problem with the idea of companies implementing a policy of retiring older workers is that such advantages are not guaranteed without government incentives or the threat of punishment – to simply rely on corporate ethics ignores the blunt reality that the raison d’etre for most companies is to efficiently generate profit, not engage in social engineering. Furthermore, as employment is rarely a zero-sum game at the senior management level due to restructuring, rehiring, probation periods and implementing training programmes, no boardroom is going to actively pursue wholesale change at its own expense, no matter how progressive the argument. Without government involvement the debate is frivolous and too open to corporate whims.

In short, the idea that companies should encourage older employees to retire is noble in spirit, but without government backing it is an idea without fangs. Although there are exceptions, most companies will inevitably act in their own interest, not society’s, and to rely on executives to self-sacrifice on behalf of a social group or resolve global ills is wishful thinking verging on fantasy. A more viable solution is to argue that ‘companies should be encouraged to encourage older employees to retire’, which is an idea that might be more realistic in aiding the young out of their current plight.