UN increases retirement ages for staffers to 65 years

A view of the United Nations logo in the U.N. General Assembly Hall. Photo by: Cia Pak / U.N. / CC BY-NC-ND

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations is raising the retirement age for staffers to 65 years old. The policy, approved by the General Assembly, has already taken effect for employees — but the mandatory age of 65 did not apply to those who were set to retire before 2018.

The U.N. operates with a concept of mandatory age of separation, dictating when employees must leave the organization, says Ian Richards, the president of the Coordinating Committee for International Staff Unions and Associations.

Previously, staffers who joined before 1990 had to leave the U.N. once they turned 60. For staffers who joined before 2014, the cut-off age was slightly higher, at 62 years. Staff who had retirement ages of 60 or 62 can still receive their full pension if they choose to leave before they hit 65.

U.N. staff councils have lobbied for this change for the past several years, according to Richards: “We've been pushing for this since 2014 because we believe that plenty of staff are still able to contribute beyond age 60,” he told Devex. “And as staff live longer, it's also important for our pension fund. Our campaign has involved extensive discussions with members of the General Assembly.” The change takes into account demographic changes at the U.N., “broad realities in the outside world,” and also the benefits the U.N. pension fund, according to a statement released by the council.

The U.N. Secretariat employed 39,651 staff — including people with temporary contracts — at the end of Dec. 2016, a decrease from the 40,131 staff working there in spring 2016. About two-thirds of these people are working on a “fixed-term” basis. In total, there were 76,234 staffers across all U.N. agencies.

The average age of staffers at the U.N. Secretariat was 44.8 years, with 40-44 making up the largest age distribution (or 8,055 people). An average of 155 staffers are expected to retire each year between 2018 and 2021, according to U.N. figures. 

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    Amy Lieberman

    Amy Lieberman is the New York Correspondent for Devex. She covers the United Nations and reports on global development and politics. Amy previously worked as a freelance reporter, covering the environment, human rights, immigration, and health across the U.S. and in more than 10 countries, including Colombia, Mexico, Nepal, and Cambodia. Her coverage has appeared in the Guardian, the Atlantic, Slate, and the Los Angeles Times. A native New Yorker, Amy received her master’s degree in politics and government from Columbia’s School of Journalism.