PBS Newshour's Business Desk blog asked me to comment on the impact of raising the retirement age. Despite conventional rhetoric, the physical and mental demands of older workers' jobs have intensified, making raising the retirement age poor economic policy.
As a recent SCEPA policy note documents, job quality for older Americans from 1992-2008 has declined due to an increase in jobs that require physical demands or traits, such as good eye sight. The increase in physically-demanding jobs is associated with service sector jobs, a decline in bargaining power, and increased unemployment among older Americans. There is no way to distinguish between older workers who are unfit for working longer than those whose jobs can be performed well into a worker's late 60s or 70s. For these reasons, raising the retirement age or the medicare eligibility age would harm vulnerable older Americans in low-paying and difficult jobs.