The weekend debate: Old versus young at work

Here’s your starter for ten in our weekend slot where we throw up an idea or thought for debate…

During the week Foreign Secretary William Hague talked of having a network of diplomats who are past their retirement age of 60 but can be called on to help out at times of international crisis. However Labour MP Frank Roy attacked the idea saying that the Foreign Office instead should be “nurturing young talent”.

What’s your view on this and more generally – should we do more to keep on the skills of people beyond 60, or should people be promptly moved out of the way so as to make way for younger people?

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9 Comments

  • They are not mutually exclusive. William Hague never ruled out nuturing younger talent.

  • Simple.

    My view is that a network of retired politicians is a good one, but they should be used to mentor newer politicians and act as ambassadors to schools and universities to get even younger generations to take an interest and engage with politics.

    My view on whether they should be called on in times of international crisis is a bit ambivalent, but I kind of feel that’s what we vote, and pay, our non-retired politicians to do.

  • Nonconformistradical 19th Mar '11 - 10:35am

    I agree they are not mutually exclusive – tthis seems an ideal field for young and old to be working together.

    Just as the young and inexperienced thave a nasty tendency to make lousy drivers, killing inordinate numbers of people on the roads, young and inexperienced ‘diplomats’ risk making lousy decisions without the support and guidance of an older, wiser head.

    There are old pilots and bold pilots – but no old. bold pilots.

  • Disconcerted. 19th Mar '11 - 10:42am

    I know retired ex MI5 who provide consultancy pretty regularly, let alone in crisis.
    The obvious answer is that the Foreign Office should do both, the wisdom of age and the enthusiam of youth should always be combined, what ever the service delivery.

  • I think the mentoring idea is great and I am a great believer that age in iteself should never be a bar to continuing to work.

    The problem with bringing back people that have retured in the diplomatic field is that a lot of their expertise can go fairly quickly as their contacts move on, retire and indeed die. So I’m not sure just how useful they might be in a suddenly emerging international crisis as by the time they were back up to speed it would probably be too late.

    Much better to have a well-trained group of diplomats from a wide age range able to hit the ground running at a moment’s notice who personally know and have dealt with current movers and shakers in a foreign country.

    In the Middle East I think we can see a lot of rulers and civil servants who will be well-known to older, longer-serving diplomats who may have retired in recent years. But whether these diplomats have any connection with the new people coming through is very doubtful I reckon.

  • Stuart Mitchell 20th Mar '11 - 5:38pm

    On the more general point, we currently have record numbers of people working beyond normal retirement age, and record numbers of youth unemployed. The government (as was the last one) is encouraging this by raising the retirement age.

    On the face of it, this is all completely crazy.

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