Kathmandu, November 14
The Parliamentary State Affairs and Good Governance Committee today decided to increase retirement age for civil servants to 60 years from 58.
In a meeting of the commission convened to discuss the Civil Service Bill, the House committee took a decision to this effect in line with the recommendation of the Public Service Commission. The provision will come into effect once the Parliament endorses the bill.
However, the two-year extension of service tenure for civil servants will not be implemented immediately after the act comes into force, but in instalments. This means the tenure will be increased by six months every year for the next four years.
Committee member Pampha Bhusal said the decision not to increase the retirement age at once was in line with international practice. She said if the retirement age was increased at once, promotion of lower-level civil servants would be blocked by three years, while new recruitment would also be blocked for the same period. “That’s why the committee took a decision that would be agreeable to all,” she told THT.
Describing the rationale behind increasing the retirement age, Bhusal said the new provision would lower financial burden on the government, while bringing uniformity in the retirement age across various civil services. For example, health sector employees retire at the age of 60.
Presently, civil servants retire at the age of 58 and after retirement get up to 75 per cent of their salaries as pension. If the retirement age is increased to 60, the government can utilise civil servants for two more years at 25 per cent costs, according to Bhusal.
Moreover, since the government makes huge investment in career development of civil servants, the new provision will ensure the government has experienced civil servants for two more years, said Bhusal. “On top of that, the average life expectancy of Nepalis has increased significantly over the years,” said Bhusal.
In its recommendation to the panel, the PSC has stated that retirement age of 58 was unfair for women. Women can join civil service until the age of 40 and there’s a provision that civil servants are eligible for pension only after 20 years of service. This means a woman joining civil service at the age of 40 will retire after 18 years of service, making her ineligible for pension.
The retirement age of civil servants was 60 years until the political change of 1990. The government lowered the retirement age to 58 in 1990-91.
According to experts, top-level bureaucrats didn’t cooperate with the elected government as they were still loyal to the previous dispensation. And, the issue has remained unresolved ever since.
One school of thought says retirement age of 58 will result in additional financial burden to the government, while the other says increasing the retirement age to 60 would mean less employment opportunities for the youths.
Former chief election commissioner Bhoj Raj Pokhrel, who was a government secretary before serving the EC, said there were convincing arguments on both sides of the debate. He, however, suggested it would have been better had the panel decided to implement the provision two years after the act came into force.
“This is because these types of decisions sometimes are guided by vested interests, such as extending service tenure of certain persons,” said Pokhrel. “If the provision is implemented after two years, such vested interests could have been discouraged.”
Nevertheless, it is a welcome move if it is not guided by such ill motives, said Pokhrel, adding the Supreme Court judges serving until the age of 65 showed that civil servants could easily serve till they turned 60.
A version of this article appears in print on November 15, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.