National Day Rally 2019: Enabling seniors to remain productive takes a joint effort

Enabling seniors to continue working productively takes a joint effort from both employers and employees, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The number of Singaporeans who are over the age of 100 has more than doubled since 2007, from 500 to 1,300 today, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday (Aug 18).

Singaporeans are now living longer on average and have the world's highest life expectancy at birth of 84.8 years.

This is one reason they have to keep re-skilling themselves, Mr Lee said at the National Day Rally at the Institute of Technical Education College Central in Ang Mo Kio.

Singaporeans also stay healthy for longer, and most seniors do not want to stop working, he said.

"We are healthy for longer and living longer, but we don't want to live in retirement for longer. We want to stay active and engaged, to feel a sense of worth and purpose," Mr Lee said.

"Also, many of us want to build up bigger nest eggs for when we eventually retire. Therefore, many of us have multiple careers in our lifetimes."

But enabling seniors to continue working productively takes a joint effort from both employers and employees, Mr Lee said.

"Employers must redesign their training, jobs, and careers around the abilities and strengths of older workers."

Although older workers may not be as strong or quick as their younger colleagues, this is not a problem in many jobs that can be redesigned or where technology can be used, Mr Lee said.

On their part, employees must have the right mindset and be ready to adapt, learn new things and take on different responsibilities, he said.

"We cannot just be satisfied doing our old jobs well, because many jobs will change and some jobs will disappear."

Mr Lee said re-skilling must start early, when workers are in their 40s and 50s, if not earlier.

This way, they will have useful skills that will be valuable even as they near retirement age and can keep improving in their 60s, he said.

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