Retrenched PMEs

Raising retirement age not the answer

The report on July 20 ("Highly trained, middle-aged and out of work") highlights the plight of once-successful middle-aged professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) who were retrenched because of economic downturns, economic restructuring, organisational cost cutting, structural changes in the industry and increasing competition from foreigners and younger workers.

Many of these workers would have had to upgrade their skill sets and knowledge in order to reach the positions they held before being retrenched.

Having spent a substantial amount of time in the job and doing well, it is natural for them to believe that there is job longevity, as long as they remain relevant.

For these workers, equipping themselves with skills that future industries require is not relevant. If anything, it will be more meaningful and useful to hone their skills and knowledge in the industry and job they are currently in.

Therefore, we cannot blame them for being complacent and lacking in career planning ("PMEs must be drivers of their own careers" by Ms Heng Teng Teng; last Saturday).

Raising the retirement age, as advocated by Mr Matthew Ong ("Government can help by raising retirement age"; last Saturday), is not a solution. In fact, it may be counterproductive.

These retrenched workers are not even near the retirement age.

Raising the retirement age means making more older people employable, reducing employment opportunities for the former.

People who reach the retirement age should bow out graciously, to make way for younger workers.

This is essential for organisational rejuvenation and staff motivation.

They must be ready to disengage themselves from the trappings a job offers, and enjoy their well-earned retirement.

So what options are available for these highly trained retrenched workers?

For those whose skill sets and knowledge are still relevant, there is a chance for them to be eventually re-employed, in industries that are still relevant to the economy.

For those affected by industry structural changes, they have to take the hard-nosed option of switching industries by acquiring new skill sets and be prepared for lower remuneration. SkillsFuture will then be relevant.

Lawrence Loh Kiah Muan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2015, with the headline 'Retrenched PMEs Raising retirement age not the answer'. Print Edition | Subscribe