Measures in right direction, but some want them sooner

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the retirement age will go up from 62 to 63 in 2022, and eventually to 65 by 2030.

Companies will be required to offer re-employment until the age of 68 in 2022, and eventually to 70 by 2030.

The retirement age protects workers from being retired earlier. They are also free to decline re-employment if they do not wish to work.

What is the response to the move?

Mr Ng Chee Meng The workers that I've spoken to, especially the senior ones, give almost unanimous positive feedback about the direction in which we are going.

They welcome the opportunity where they choose to work that bit longer: for active ageing, on one part; building up the retirement adequacy nest (egg), on the other hand; and, importantly, to have a longer runway to participate in contributing constructively to society.

On the neutral side, the sentiment is: "Do we need to take so long? 'In 10 years' is a long time, Sec-Gen. Can we do it a little bit faster?"

Mrs Josephine Teo Yesterday would have been better.


  • • Mrs Josephine Teo Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs

    • Mr Ng Chee Meng Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and NTUC secretary-general

    • Dr Robert Yap President Singapore National Employers Federation

    • Associate Professor Chia Ngee Choon Department of Economics and Co-Director, Next Age Institute National University of Singapore

    • The panel was moderated by Mr Zakir Hussain

Mr Ng Yesterday would have been best, but they do take encouragement that the public service is taking the lead to implement some of this in 2021.

And the first questions that are coming to me are: "Sec-Gen, can we encourage companies that can do so to take a proactive step?"

Associate Professor Chia Ngee Choon The recommendations come at the right time because we are already ageing quite fast... We have to address this issue fairly quickly. And you need time for the system to take effect, and there is always a group of people who feel that it's just too late.

For those people in the Merdeka Generation, they will miss out. Those who are 59 and below will be the beneficiaries of the increase in retirement age and the possibility of re-employment to age 70.

Dr Robert Yap Employers are concerned about cost, especially with the economic situation at this moment. But I think all of us recognise that there is a need for us to go in that direction.

We all actually empathise with the policy that we are taking in terms of moving up our older low-wage workers.

What we are concerned about is really more of the flexibility. That's why we actually talked a lot about when you have retirement, how do you work out the re-employment (arrangement) - if it is year to year, or two years, or three years?

The (smaller) small and medium enterprises are very concerned about cost. A lot of them will normally... employ a person for as long as they can. They don't worry about how long they're going to work.

But, for the bigger companies, the concern is about their planning, the transformation that they're going through... Many of these companies need to build these plans into their human resource policies. These are the things that we need time (for).

So, the timing of what the PM has announced is just nice, and we had a lot of discussions on that.

Mrs Teo This is where the real challenge lies for us.

A very important premise is that we continue to be able to generate growth in the economy, businesses continue to succeed and, as a result of improved productivity, workers' wages also continue to rise.

It isn't just about accommodating more seniors in our workforce. It is actually about how you help businesses to make the best of the manpower that's available to them, and continue to enhance competitiveness at the enterprise level. Mrs Teo Do you also hear our workers becoming worried that there are still ageist attitudes, and there are employers that are perhaps not so receptive to this?

Mr Ng Some employers do look at age as the proxy of learning ability and productivity.

Well, we do what we can do. We make sure that we stay healthy. We maintain our adaptability, no matter what age we may be.

You can be young, and you can be totally non-adaptable. You can be older and be completely nimble and adaptable. Don't let age define us. Change your attitude, take action, prove yourself to your employers.

Dr Yap Well, as long as the employee stays healthy, active and is always wanting to learn and look ahead, I think every employer is very prepared to invest in retraining or reskilling, even hard skills.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2019, with the headline Measures in right direction, but some want them sooner. Subscribe