THE QUESTION OF MANDATORY RETIREMENT
Professor (Emeritus) John H. Munro passed away December 23, 2013
Department of Economics,
University of Toronto
150 St. George Street: Room N-108 [Retirees' Room]
Revised Thursday, 7 December 2006
Important update: On Thursday, 8 December 2005, the Ontario legislature enacted Bill 211 (Third Reading)
to abolish mandatory retirement at 65: essentially by amending the Human Rights Code whose provisions on age
discrimination had pertained only to the years 18 - 64. The bill was given Royal Assent on 12 December;
and thus mandatory retirement will be abolished in one year from that date, i.e., as of 12 December 2006
-- in order to allow employers a full year to make necessary provisions or adjustments for those who chose to continue
working past 65 (undoubtedly, a small minority). Note, however, that in other provinces that
ostensibly abolished mandatory retirement (e.g., Manitoba,
Alberta, etc.), the provincial legislatures subsequently made special provisions to allow mandatory retirement at 65 in
universities, usually under the BFOR clause: age as a bona fide occupational requirement. Let us be vigilant that,
that some time in the future, another government tries to amend this act in order to allow this same exception.
Before the Ontario legislation, Quebec had been the only province that
had completely abolished mandatory retirement (in 1983): and in fact it was the very first jurisdiction in
North American to do so.
The Historic Agreement to abolish Mandatory Retirement at the University of Toronto, on 14 March 2005:
- On this date, the University of Toronto and UTFA (University of Toronto Faculty Association) reached an historic
agreement to abolish mandatory retirement (mandatory retirement at 65 had been in force at this university since 1 July 1972).
As one subjected to mandatory retirement in 2003, and as one who has fought strongly against it since then, I welcome this marvelous victory,
which ironically occurred on my 67th birthday. The agreement has now been ratified by both the Governing Council and
the UTFA Council.
- Here is the web-link to the
University of Toronto's official announcement.
- The Office of the Provost and Vice-President has recently established this website to provide all the necessary official information
concerning new University of Toronto policies on retirement (and related pension issues).
- UTFA posted the original version of the agreement
to abolish mandatory retirement on on its web site, including a
pdf file of the agreement, with more details. This web site also has links to other important aspects
of the mandatory retirement issue, including the history of the debate and various position papers stating
UTFA's reasons for requesting the abolition of mandatory retirement -- and also the Council of Ontario Universities'
position paper, sent to the Government of Ontario, opposing an end to mandatory retirement (no surprises here).
- The official (and signed) agreement is now also online at the UTFA website: the webpage on mandatory retirement.
- That UTFA web page also contains my
paper on ‘The Debate About Mandatory Retirement in Ontario Universities: Positive
and Personal Choices About Retirement at 65', which has now been published
in the following collection: C.T. (Terry) Gillin, David MacGregor, and Thomas R. Klassen, eds.,
Times Up! Mandatory Retirement in Canada(Toronto: CAUT and Lorimer Press, 2005). pp. 190-217.
- This paper, which was originally a paper produced for the Public Policy Committee of RALUT (Retired Professors
and Libarians at the University of Toronto), therefore also appears on its
website. A more up to date
version (in effect, the penultimate, or semi-final version of the essaay published in the aforementioned volume)
can be found in the Department of Economics Working Papers.
- I would like to acknowledge my great indebtedness to Professor Jon Kesselman, Simon Fraser University, whose UBC
working paper (Nov. 2003) on 'Time to Retire Mandatory Retirement' proved to be so influential in providing key
economic arguments in my own paper. That paper was subsequently published by The CD Howe Institute. Prof. Kesselman also supplied an important essay in the Gillin-MacGregor-Klassen
volume listed above (pp. 161-89).
- The concluding summary paper in this volume was written by Professor Emeritus Peter Russell (Political Science,
University of Toronto), a past-president of RALUT, a current member of UTFA Council, and a leading member of the UTFA
negotiating team that reached this historic agreement with the administration. The editors and authors of essays in
this volume would naturally like to believe that our work has had some positive influence on these negotiations.
- The May 2005 issue of the national journal University Affairs has a feature article on this historic agreement to end
mandatory retirement at the University of Toronto (and it also has a reasonably good picture of myself, then
working in my cramped Dilbert-style cubicle).
- This same issue of University Affairs also features an 'opinion-piece' by the afore-mentioned
Peter Russell on the mandatory-retirement debate. As noted above, he played a major role in the negotiations
to end this odious custom at the University of Toronto.
- Earlier, the December 2003 issue of University Affairs also had a feature article on the then current debate about
and for this article I agreed to an interview that more or less accurately reported my views on mandatory retirement
and my reflections on a teaching career of 35 years at the University of Toronto (plus another four years at UBC).
(Evidently left-over photos were used for this current article, in the May 2005 issue). This same article,
in the December 2003 issue, also quotes James Turk (Executive Director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers),
who made the cogent, prescient, and very succinct remark:
'It is not that they [Canadian Universities] don't want older teachers to teach,
it's that they don't want to pay them as much to do so'.
- I should also note that, on 8 September 2004, I made a formal presentation to the
Ontario Ministry of Labour's public hearings on mandatory retirement -- i.e., to
support a proposed bill to abolish mandatory retirement. It is available in a MS Word
document; and it has also been published in OCUFA Forum
(Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations), Fall 2004, pp. 22-23. As noted above, in the intial section
of this web-page on 'Important Update', in December 2005, the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty did indeed
enact a statute to
abolish Mandatory Retirement, which takes effect on 12 December 2006.
- Some reactions to the abolition of mandatory retirement in Ontario must be classed as
nothing more than 'fear-mongering'. A blatant exampole is the
statement that the Toronto Star attributed (on 15 March 2005) to Prof. Alan Weedon, Vice-Provost of
the University of Western Ontario, who allegedly stated: that,
if mandatory retirement is abolished, ‘our attempts to increase the number of women on our faculty will be stalled’.
The implication seems to be that those who favour abolishing mandatory retirement must be opposed to women's rights.
Evidently he also subscribes to the common ‘lump of labour' fallacy: i.e., that employment is fixed, so that only with
the departure of retirees can new faculty be hired. But, of course, many university departments hire new
faculty each year to replace those who go elsewhere (often with better offers), are denied tenure, or leave for
various others reasons -- before retirement and/or death. This argument seems akin to one used in post-World War II Canada
(with a rapidly expanding economy): that recently hired women should leave the labour force to
provide jobs for returning veterans and other ‘male household-breadwinners’. The experience of Quebec, since 1983,
and of the U.S., since 1994, in no way indicates that the abolition of mandatory retirement has hindered the employment
of women (or young academics in general). In the past several years, our department of Economics has made many
offers to young female academics who have turned us down in favour of American universities, most recently (this
past February) an economic historian whom we sought to hire, to replace me and five others who have left (retired, died)
over the past several years. With three offers from American universities, she chose Michigan (whose offer,
including a post-doc, to precede a tenure-stream appointment, was financially better than ours, as to
be expected with continual underfunding of Ontario universities). We continue to hope that we may eventually (after two
such failures) be able to hire another economic historian.
- An Update: Recently (Spring 2005), at the request of the RALUT Reporter, I produced this commentary on the agreement to end mandatory retirement at the University of Toronto. This
commentary has now been published in full (though edited) in the Ralut Reporter, vol. 5, no. 1 (April 2005), pp.
2-5, 8-9; and this issue is now online, at
the newsletter's website.
Frequently Asked Questions about the University's Abolition of Mandatory Retirement
- Will my retirement be undone and will I be allowed to resume full-time salaried employment? Answer: NO.
My retirement is a fait accompli, and I have been receiving a university pension since July 2003. That cannot be
undone and changed. I remain retired, because such changes simply cannot be made retroactive.
- Nevertheless, will the abolition of mandatory retirement in any way improve my current status? Answer: Not
so far as I can see. Possibly, when our department moves to a new building this Fall, I may get my own
private office -- since I adamantly refuse to continue teaching without some private office space. (We are making
a temporary move to the Sidney Smith Building (100 St. George Street), while the current building,
at 150 St. George Street, undergoes extensive renovations, with a significant addition of new space.
My current cubicle will be destroyed in the process.)
In any event, the new office space was promised to me before there was any indication that the University would agree
to the abolition of mandatory retirement. Other retirees, however, will undoubtedly benefit from the agreement's clause
no. 15, concerning Senior Scholar/Retiree Centres, one on each campus, whose realisation may be years from now. In any event, I prefer
to have individual and enclosed office space with my colleagues in Economics.
- Do I feel any bitterness at this result: that the abolition of mandatory retirement will not appreciably affect
my current retired status? Answer: NO. I knew from the outset that any abolition of mandatory retirement could never
be made retroactive. I undertook this campaign to abolish MR solely to eliminate a social and moral evil -- a clear violation of
human rights, in terms of age discrimination -- and to spare younger colleagues this fate. That the University
and UTFA have now agreed to abolish mandatory retirement is satisfaction enough. A major victory, indeed for all us
engaged in this campaign!
The Economic, Social, and Moral Issues involved in the debate on Mandatory Retirement in Ontario
- First, some historial background information on mandatory retirement in the U.S. In 1978, Congress amended the
1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act to establish 70 (rather than 65) as the minimum age of mandatory retirement for most workers;
but university professors were then excluded (i.e., with mandatory retirement at 65), until the act was amended in 1982.
In October 1986, Congress prohibited mandatory retirement everywhere, though again with the significant exception of university professors –
whose employment, however, was still permitted to continue until age 70, i.e., five years beyond the standard age of mandatory retirement in Canada, at 65.
As the American economists Orley Ashenfelter and David Card have noted (American Economic Review 92:4, 2002),
that exemption ‘was a hard-fought victory for college and university representatives,
who argued that mandatory retirement was needed to maintain a steady inflow of younger faculty and promote the hiring of
women and minorities’. The 1986 act had required Congress to review this exemption in seven years; it did so,
and voted to have this exemption expire, on schedule, on 31 December 1993.
By that date, many American universities and colleges had already, quite voluntarily, withdrawn
their mandatory retirement provisions.
- In Canada, mandatory retirement -- and at 65, not 70 -- continues to be imposed and enforced
in all Canadian provinces, except for Quebec (but, until just now, also in Ontario), which
abolished contractual mandatory retirement by legislation in December 1983. In 1990 the Canadian Supreme Court
upheld the right of Ontario universities
to maintain mandatory retirement, rejecting a suit brought by a number of professors who had
contended that mandatory retirement was in violation of section
15 of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, which explicitly forbids age discrimination (without limiting the age,
as do most provincial codes).
The court ruled that this right could be abridged by the provisions of section 1, which
‘guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to
such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society’.
The Court agreed with many current views and
arguments to the effect that mandatory retirement was necessary to allow universities to pursue and maintain
various academic goals, for the betterment of society.
One very argument strongly held -- then and now -- in university administrations is that too many of us
professors become 'deadwood' by our early 60s; and thus mandatory retirement
offers a painless way of getting rid of all those aged 65 (even though they have no reluctance to hire us,
on small stipends, to continue teaching).
In the decision known as McKinney vs University of Guelph, Chief Justice La Forest, asserted,
with virtually no documentation, ‘that on average there is a decline in intellectual ability from the age of 60
onwards’, so that ‘to raise the retirement age [beyond 65], then, might give rise to greater demands for
demeaning tests for those between the ages of 60 and 65’.
- The now ten-year experience of the abolition of mandatory retirement in American universities has not
substantiated any of the major fears expressed in this court decision; nor has twenty-one years of university experiences
in Quebec. Harvard continues to be the world's leading university; and I think that the student editorial in
The Harvard Crimson, of 23 February 2004,
makes the case against mandatory retirement better than I could, in refuting the idea that too many of us become
'deadwood' when we turn 60 or 65. The editorial The Process of Aging: Harvard Faculty are geting older, but that's not necessarily bad for
undergraduates, a veritable paen of praise for older professsors, was written to observe the tenth anniversary
of the abolition of mandatory retirement at Harvard (and indeed at all American universities, when the age of
mandatory retirement had been 70, not 65). Many studies now
indicate that most burned-out and unsuccessful academics, who have thus grown to dislike their jobs, voluntarily retire,
usually before the standard age of retirement. In Quebec universities -- with no mandatory retirement
since 1983 -- the average age of retirement is 62.5; at Berkeley (surprisingly), it is 61.
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