SINGAPORE - Learning never stops, and teaching never ends.
This is the mantra of 63-year-old Thirumaran Thangaraju, a Tamil language teacher who has been with Woodlands Secondary School since it was started in 1982.
He retired in December 2022, but opted for re-employment to continue imparting the love of the language to his students.
“Working with students has always energised me, and I value the interactions that I have with my students and colleagues,” he said.
On average, close to 70 per cent of eligible retiring teachers chose to be re-employed every year from 2020 to 2022, the Ministry of Education (MOE) told The Straits Times.
All MOE officers who reach 63 years old – the age at which employers today must offer re-employment to eligible employees – are offered the option of re-employment, if they meet the criteria of good performance and conduct, and are medically fit to continue working.
Retiring MOE teachers can also consider adjunct roles under MOE’s contract-adjunct or flexi-adjunct schemes. Between 2020 and 2022, about one in five retiring teachers opted for adjunct positions instead of re-employment.
One of them is Madam Mahala Devi, 63, who retired as head of the mathematics department at Anglo-Chinese Junior College in June 2020. She works shorter hours at the school now, and her duties include reviewing and curating the department’s teaching resources.
“I wanted a lighter workload to pursue interests like reading and exercising,” she said.
More retirees are working, and not just in the education sector.
Some 47.5 per cent of seniors aged 65 to 69 were employed in 2022, an increase of about three percentage points from 2019. For those aged 55 to 64, the employment rate jumped to 70.6 per cent in 2022 from 67.6 per cent in 2019.
Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said in a parliamentary reply in February that around 207,000 residents aged 65 and over were employed in 2022, equivalent to an employment rate of 31 per cent. About a third of them were working part-time.
The top five industries employing the most resident workers aged 65 and over in 2022 were wholesale and retail trade, administrative and support services, transportation and storage, accommodation and food services, and manufacturing.
The numbers can be expected to increase, as Singapore’s retirement and re-employment ages are progressively raised to 65 and 70 respectively by 2030.
Support from the Government and companies
This has been bolstered by measures to support employers who hire older workers.
In 2020, the Government introduced the $1.5 billion Senior Worker Support Package which includes the Senior Employment Credit (SEC) and the Part-time Re-employment Grant (PTRG).
The SEC provides up to 8 per cent wage offset to employers that hire Singaporean workers aged 55 and above, with higher support for workers in the older age bands. The PTRG incentivises employers to commit to providing part-time re-employment opportunities for their senior employees.
Figures from the Manpower Ministry showed that as at September 2022, more than $450 million of Senior Employment Credit has been disbursed, and this has benefited almost 100,000 employers and more than 461,000 senior workers.
More than 5,700 employers have also committed to a part-time re-employment policy under the PTRG. In the months ahead, this is expected to benefit more than 45,000 senior workers.
Mr Heng Chee How, deputy secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) told ST that over 90 per cent of mature workers reaching statutory retirement age are offered re-employment. NTUC’s e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) helps mature job seekers who are displaced from their jobs or are returning to the workforce.
Mr Leslie Danker, 84, is a beneficiary of the PTRG. The mentor resident historian at Raffles Hotel works part-time conducting history tours. He is among 18 senior workers older than 65 years old who are employed in either full- or part-time roles with the hotel.
“After 51 years with Raffles Hotel Singapore, I still look forward to coming to work every day as I am able to share my personal experience, knowledge and memories of the iconic hotel with my guests, colleagues and members of the public, perpetuating its rich heritage and legacy,” he said.
Ms Edna Goh, 68, took up a gig job with her employer, UOB, shortly after retiring in December 2021. She helps customers with general queries on weekdays from 9.30am to 4.30pm.
“After retiring, I felt bored when I woke up every day,” she said. “Now I have somewhere to go, and can earn extra income for living and travelling expenses.”
She is one of 65 retirees enrolled in UOB’s Gig+U Retiree programme, which was launched at the end of 2021 for retired employees to continue working based on hours of their choice.
UOB’s head of group human resources Dean Tong said: “The wealth of experience that these veterans offer ensures that the bank has a ready and willing pool of reliable and seasoned workers who can supplement, and even inspire our colleagues.”
A FairPrice spokesman said 13 per cent of its employees are aged 65 and above, and in 2022, over 90 per cent of the senior employees were re-employed.
Non-acceptance of re-employment, said the spokesman, is mainly due to family reasons such as caring for grandchildren or spending more time with loved ones. The supermarket chain also hires people based on job fit and skills rather than age.
More taking on flexi-work and gig jobs
Many retirees who are not re-employed, or who are rejoining the workforce, choose to take on flexi-work or gig jobs.
Ms Lim Huishan, general manager of FastJobs Singapore, said that among job seekers aged 65 and above between 2021 and 2022, there was a shift towards finding gig work on FastGig – an app which lists gig jobs – compared with traditional full-time and part-time work on FastJobs.
FastCo is the company behind both the FastJobs job portal and FastGig app.
“Seniors are placing more emphasis on flexible work arrangements offered by gig work, which allows them to plan work around their lives, instead of the other way around,” she said.
Among its senior job seekers, around 58 per cent are male and 42 per cent are female. Some 24 per cent of them have qualifications of a diploma and above. They are applying for jobs such as part-time retail associates, warehouse assistants and administrative roles.
Mr Callam Pickering, an economist at job portal Indeed, said seniors are looking for work opportunities that allow them to balance work with other commitments and interests. He added that Singapore residents aged 65 and over are concentrated in administrative and support services with higher levels of workplace flexibility.
Social service agency Centre for Seniors (CFS) introduced its job portal Silverjobs.sg in 2019. Today, it has about 110 job roles from around 50 hiring employers. It found jobs for 104 senior job seekers in 2022.
Ms Patricia Auyeong, CFS’ head of Learn & Place, said that in 2022, 60 per cent of the jobs placed by CFS were for short-term contracts and part-time and gig work.
Associate Professor Thang Leng Leng, an anthropologist from the National University of Singapore and president of the Gerontological Society of Singapore, said she expects an upward trend of people wanting to work past retirement age, especially with inflation. However, this may not necessarily be full-time, but more flexible part-time and “micro” jobs.
Ms Emily Tann, 70, was job-hunting for six months before she found a grocery shopper gig job on FastGig.
“I think many hirers were deterred by my age,” she said. “For this gig role, I did not have to attend interviews at all.”
She works either the 11am to 6.30pm or 2.30pm to 10pm shift, picking items for the supermarket’s online orders.
“It helps pay for the rising living expenses and healthcare,” she said. “I like the flexible hours, and working keeps me active.”