By Alan Dowd, byFaith.com
As we take a break to celebrate Labor Day, it’s disheartening to think that 92 million working-age Americans are not working, a healthy percentage by choice. The unemployed-by-choice have taken themselves out of the job market, most choosing early retirement or unemployment benefits rather than employment. As The Washington Post recently reported, “In 2007, 66 percent of Americans had a job or were actively seeking work. Today, that number is at 62.8 percent—the lowest level since 1977.”
It seems the goal of an increasing number of people is to not work; and for many who do work, the goal is just to make it to retirement. Americans can access their Social Security retirement benefits as early as 62, and 45 percent of men and about 50 percent of women are doing just that. Taking retirement benefits at 62, however, doesn’t necessarily mean a person stops working. In fact, many people take early Social Security and begin new careers or make a career out of volunteering. In other words, they keep working.
But given that Americans can expect to live well past 84, those who choose—at age 62 or so—to stop working altogether are paving the way for a quarter-century of life without any productivity at all.
This phenomenon is not quarantined within America. Greece allows its workers to retire at 58. Germany plans to lower the retirement age for a large segment of its citizens to 63. The average retirement age in Europe is 61. Related, France has a 35-hour work week; parts of Sweden are experimenting with a 30-hour work week.
Just as the Lord prescribes a Sabbath day’s rest at the end of the work week, it stands to reason that He might allow for a Sabbath season at the end of a productive life. Indeed, there comes a point when our muscles and minds fail. But a quarter-century of work-free leisure doesn’t seem to be in tune with God’s plan—nor does choosing unemployment over employment.