Ageism prevents seniors from continuing to work

Ageism may be responsible for the rise in the number of redundancies and the difficulties faced by older Singaporeans in trying to re-enter the workforce, rather than an unwillingness to work beyond the retirement age ("Retirement not an entitlement" by Mr Ng Chee Siang; last Saturday).

The decision to work until the day they can no longer do so is almost always not in older workers' hands, but in those of their employers.

Many professionals, managers, executives and technicians in their 40s or 50s are losing their livelihoods. These experienced and highly qualified workers find it difficult to return to a job at a similar level, as they have to compete with younger and cheaper candidates.

With increased longevity and improved health, ageing is less and less synonymous with dependency.

Hence, the notion of ageing as a dependent stage of life does not match current realities. This and the stereotype of seniors as unproductive are unfair and detrimental to their dignity.

Because of age discrimination, many perfectly healthy older workers feel they have been forced by circumstances into leaving the labour force.

The prevailing idea that older employees must retire at a certain age in order to provide jobs for younger people must also be re-examined. If people are able to work longer, society should not discourage them from doing so.

The problem is not that our seniors refuse to work, but that discriminatory practices at most workplaces prevent them from doing so.

Simon Owen Khoo Kim San

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2016, with the headline 'Ageism prevents seniors from continuing to work'. Print Edition | Subscribe