Civil service needs to lead mindset change about retirement age

Employers need to embrace the fact that redesigning jobs to tap the large reserve of senior workers is no longer a luxury, but is critical to our survival as the population of younger workers shrinks in the coming decades.
Employers need to embrace the fact that redesigning jobs to tap the large reserve of senior workers is no longer a luxury, but is critical to our survival as the population of younger workers shrinks in the coming decades. PHOTO: ST FILE

I totally agree with Professor Sumit Agarwal that, given our demographic trend, the retirement age has not only become totally irrelevant, but has also become the proverbial albatross around the necks of workers as well as employers today (Why the retirement age is irrelevant for Singapore, April 18).

Like the hugely successful "stop at two" campaign in the 1970s, this mental shackle that a person has reached the end of his productivity cycle in his 60s has become so deeply entrenched that it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy that can be felt today.

Given the present state of affairs, where age discrimination is still rife in the workplace, employers need to embrace the fact that redesigning jobs to tap the large reserve of senior workers is no longer a luxury, but is critical to our survival as the population of younger workers shrinks in the coming decades.

Retirement should be a strictly personal affair and should not be enshrined as a mandatory stage in the working life of employees, in that they have to leave their jobs or seek greener pastures.

In short, people should be allowed to choose whether they want to retire early or continue working for personal reasons, and it should not be dictated by the law.

In order to eradicate this age-old idea of a retirement age, we need nothing less than a paradigm shift in the mindsets of the Government, workers and employers.

The ball is now in the court of employers - are they willing to see older workers in a different light and treat them as an asset rather than a liability?

As the biggest employer in the market, perhaps the civil service should take the lead in this matter.

Seah Yam Meng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2019, with the headline 'Civil service needs to lead mindset change about retirement age'. Print Edition | Subscribe