Systemic change needed to bridge retirement inequality gap

It is inevitable that economic inequality would create a disparity in the quality of retirement that Singaporeans can enjoy ("Inequality dashes retirement dreams"; June 5).

The gulf between the haves and the have-nots is multifaceted.

Lower-income individuals have to work longer than their higher-earning counterparts to accumulate a sufficient retirement fund, which naturally gives them fewer years in retirement to reap the fruits of their labour.

Moreover, healthcare costs are likely to deplete a larger proportion of their savings, further chipping away at the nest egg.

Generous subsidies and community assistance schemes have not fully mitigated the financial burden that some chronic conditions might constitute.

All the while, the vulnerable continue to be afflicted by the ever-rising cost of living.

Dollars and cents earned by retirees decades ago now have substantially less purchasing power in an increasingly expensive city.

Returning to work may not be a viable option either. Job qualifications have undergone a similar process of inflation, thanks to rampant economic restructuring, while companies remain wary of hiring older workers.

As a result, even with the many skills upgrading programmes and government incentives for employers, members of the working class who were deprived of a full education in the tumultuous pre-independence years now struggle to find re-employment.

While Singapore has undeniably invested greatly in social infrastructure to care for the aged and provided some guarantee of financial security in their twilight years, much more remains to be done.

Mechanisms such as the Pioneer Generation Package and MediShield Life could be further strengthened to be more inclusive and to provide more comprehensive coverage. Peace of mind is something that all retirees should enjoy.

Furthermore, systemic change is required to narrow the widening gulf between our socio-economic strata.

This could entail strengthening blue-collar wages, or perhaps extending social safety nets across more age cohorts.

In essence, we need to rethink how we treat the workers of today, lest we perpetuate inequality for the retirees of tomorrow.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi