Retirement age needed for renewal

Retirement age is a rite of passage after working for over 40 years.
Retirement age is a rite of passage after working for over 40 years. PHOTO: ST FILE

I do not agree that the retirement age has anything to do with demographic trends. The prosperity and progress of a country depend on the wisdom of the government (Civil service needs to lead mindset change about retirement age, by Seah Yam Meng, April 25).

Professor Sumit Agarwal did not get his facts right by saying there was no retirement age in America. The official retirement age in the US is 62 and full retirement age is 67. Its unemployment rate last year was 4 per cent compared with Singapore's 2.1 per cent.

Perhaps his arguments suit professionals in the academic, civil service, financial, legal and medical fields.

Singaporeans are living longer but the years they spend in ill health are considerable. The average of eight years out of a total of 82 is very pertinent to retirement age.

To everything there is a season and a purpose. Retirement age is a rite of passage after working for over 40 years.

We need to spare a thought for workers in heavy industry, metal engineering fabrication, marine and shipyards, transport, building and construction sectors.

Researchers found that men whose jobs involve a lot of physical labour are almost 20 per cent more likely to die prematurely.

The net healthy life of average Singaporeans is about 74 after deducting ill-health years. Workers from physically demanding jobs retiring at 62 would be lucky to enjoy 12 years of a healthy, stress-free lifestyle with family and grandchildren.

Workers in less physically-demanding jobs also need to retire for renewal purposes although they have greater leeway to choose to continue competing with vigorous younger professionals.

Singapore has been using structural dependence on foreign talent and immigration policy to mitigate the low birth rate and confront challenges to continue delivering economic development.

A mandatory retirement age is necessary for renewal to rejuvenate the workforce while encouraging many golden years for older workers. In large organisations, the process helps to remove deadwood to promote younger, enterprising people in the trade.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2019, with the headline 'Retirement age needed for renewal'. Print Edition | Subscribe