Rehire older workers as norm, not as a 'favour'

Elderly at Raffles Place on Aug 24, 2015.
Elderly at Raffles Place on Aug 24, 2015. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Like many countries, Singapore is facing a host of challenges related to a rapidly ageing population.

Among them is that of an ageing workforce ("10 areas employers and older workers need to look at"; last Tuesday).

Acknowledging that an ageing workforce has challenges is, perhaps, not the right way to begin, as we are talking about workers who are in their 50s or early 60s.

Given that Singaporeans on average have a life expectancy of between 82 and 85 years, these so-called older workers have another 25 or more years to keep themselves both mentally and physically active.

Workers currently can withdraw a portion of their Central Provident Fund savings when they reach the age of 55.

This point of reference seems to have stuck and, so, we look at workers who have attained that age as "old" and ready to retire.

This is a fallacy.

Employers who have chosen to retain or hire older workers may believe they are doing these folk a favour, judging by the accolades accorded to them by the media.

It would be appropriate if we modify this view and think of rehiring older workers as something that is normal and expected.

This is also a win-win situation, given that employers will continue to need workers who bring experience, maturity and stability to the table.

If the efforts of the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices gain little traction, we should consider laws mandating the rehiring of older workers.

Paul Heng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2015, with the headline 'Rehire older workers as norm, not as a 'favour''. Print Edition | Subscribe