The UK government is considering following the example of the US state of Oregon, which has brought 70 software veterans out of retirement to address the Year 200 date change problem.
The acute shortage of skills to fix this problem is becoming urgent on both sides of the Atlantic, as most applications that need to be converted are written in old programming languages. Oregon is about to pass a special law allowing pensioners to keep their retirement benefits and earn significant contract rates, provided they are using their skills in Y2K projects of the state government.
The UK's Department of Trade and Industry said it was "looking at Oregon's work with interest" and had considered so-called 'Dads' Army' teams to help plug the urgent skills gap. But it would not comment on possible measures to protect retired programmers' pension rights.
Taskforce 2000, the group set up by the government to tackle the issue, will examine the Oregon solution at its forthcoming summit next month.
Skills particularly in demand are Cobol and Assembler programming. But in Oregon, retired programmers can only expect to be paid half the rates being offered to younger people with these skills. The state told the 'Financial Times' that it believes it can cut its estimated bill of $87 million for fixing the bug by one-third by using 70 pensioners alongside about 130 younger staff.
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