Senior citizens return in droves to fill the skills gap in the workforce


Ravindra Kumar retired as a deputy superintendent of police last year. But time didn’t slow down for him.

Rather than step into the comfort of family life, Kumar joined the Central Bureau of Investigation within three months of retirement—in a similar job profile to the one he had just left—to help the agency track criminal investigation from Patna.

T. Adhikant, a retired superintendent engineer, is helping the National Highway Authority of India oversee maintenance work of NH 2 in western Uttar Pradesh. Adhikant is more than happy—he has a good salary, a respectable job profile and a life without the boredom of post-retirement routines.

Kumar and Adhikant are ‘senior citizens’ but they belong to a new India where post-60, many people are finding demand and productive uses for their skills.

Retirement is no more than a temporary stop in the journey of personal and professional growth as they believe their experience and skills can be better utilized than in the comfort of an armchair.

As the debate continues on the lack of a quality workforce, both the government and private sector are happy to offer careers to retired people. This trend adds a new dimension to the jobs landscape and experts say that while the youth are struggling to cope with the demands of employability, experienced elders are being sought—virtually as the new youth.

“As per rules, you retire at a certain age. But I don’t think 60 is the age to sit down at home and not do anything,” said Kumar. “I retired in June 2015 from the police department and in September joined CBI—the position, the profile and the place of work suited me.”

Adhikant echoed the sentiment: “For 30-40 years, one hones a skill and suddenly you would not like that proficiency to go to waste. Organizations have started valuing experience and certain skill-sets. And if you have that, then a post-retirement job is not difficult to land at all.”

Several of his peers and former colleagues are now engaged in either full-time or consulting jobs.

Once associated with financial and emotional dependence, retirement is now all about utilizing one’s rich experience, skills and wisdom to contribute to the profession, achieve new goals and remain financially independent, said Amit Khurana, CEO of Corporate Access, a human resource consulting and executive search company.

“This generation of retiring people is different from our relatively young generation—they simply don’t want to retire. They seem to have realized that their present is greater than the past and the future is much brighter than what was perceived earlier,” said Khurana, a former executive vice-president at Yes Bank.

Khurana, whose father continues to work after retirement, said that while a majority of retirees are ready to work, not all sectors are hiring such people. However, demand is high in infrastructure, including railways, highways and ports; banking, financial services and insurance; and education. He said the trend has taken off in the past couple of years.

“Overall, between 35-40 such people have been placed by us in three or four of these sectors. In the last six months, we have placed some two dozen senior retired people in some of our payment bank clients,” he said, adding that the number is just a fraction of the real hiring level in this space as most such engagements happen directly—without the involvement of an HR firm.

Post-retirement offers have three key criteria—specialized skills, previous positions held and value of work experience, he said. For example, finance clients want retired people who have served in large public sector banks with knowledge of how to expand businesses, contacts and an understanding of government policies.

Agreed Harivansh Chaturvedi, director of Birla Institute of Management Technology, a private business school in Greater Noida: “Like any sector, the education sector lacks quality manpower. That’s why we went to recruit experienced people. Of the 65 faculty members, 20-plus professors belongs to such category—who have earlier worked as bankers, top executives in private companies and insurance firms. In management, medical and legal education, this is a requirement and those having vision are hiring the right people. For us, age is just a number.”

Industry experts, retired people and recruiters all feel that salary is not a constraint for such candidates. “Salary is not a deterrent,” said Bengaluru-based Raju Chandrasekhar, who is working as a strategic adviser to education institutions after serving various firms in management roles. “I am 64 and looking for another decade-and-a-half of productive professional life.”

Khurana was more forthcoming in quantifying the financial benefits. “We know retired people earning between Rs.22 lakh and Rs.50 lakh per annum in full- time roles,” he said. “If it is part-time, the remuneration is obviously lower.”

A glance at job portals concur with that estimate. For example, Bharti Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Bharti Airtel Ltd, has advertised for the position of ‘regional head Punjab’ and seeks candidates such as retired colonels. This job posting in offers a salary package of Rs.20 lakh to Rs.22.5 lakh.

Is it all rosy for retired people? Not exactly, said Khurana. A retired bureaucrat is always in demand, as are top executives, but in sectors that are not booming or are facing manpower issues, it’s a competitive world.

“Young or old, skill matters. But many a time where youngsters fail, elders do well. But recruiters know they are hiring relatively slow people with fixed minds,” Khurana added.