Government can help by raising retirement age

I read with sadness the recent article about older professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) having a hard time seeking re-employment, even for jobs at a third of their previous salary ("Highly trained, middle-aged and out of work"; Monday).

I am also a PME and one day soon will join the ranks of my fallen brethren.

For some of us, we chose our career path early in life and now we have to pursue it to its inevitable conclusion.

What disturbs me is not getting a lower-paid job or a lower position - it's the feeling that one has been used up and discarded like some broken toy.

The Manpower Ministry has increased the retirement age from 55 to 60, then to 62.

It introduced recontracting for those who reach 62 for a further three years, with conditions such as a drop in salary and a possible lump sum payout if a firm is unable to identify a suitable job for them.

The Government will also subsidise the payroll of laid off PMEs, hired by an employer, for a fixed period of time. 

So, the Government is trying to do something about it, but unless it is prepared to take a radical approach, nothing is going to change. For example, it could take the lead by changing the retirement age from 62 to 67. If we wait for employers to voluntarily implement it, it is very unlikely to happen.

In fact, why is there a need for a retirement age in the first place? There are countries where people in their 70s are still working. Shouldn't retirement be based on whether one is physically able or not and willing?

Today, we have a tight labour market and an ageing population. We even have to bring in foreign labour to keep our businesses going. So, do we really need a retirement age?

But workers too have to take personal responsibility to maintain their value to any employer.

Matthew Ong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2015, with the headline 'Government can help by raising retirement age'. Print Edition | Subscribe