Workers turning 65 before next July worried

Some fear they may be asked to go before new age ceiling of 67 for re-employment kicks in

Mr Sumoo Subbiramaniam, a former aircraft technician with SIA Engineering who is now working as a production planner. ST PHOTO: DON WONG

Aircraft technician Sumoo Subbiramaniam turns 65 on Saturday, but his birthday will be soured by what he sees as inevitable: SIA Engineering, his only employer for 44 years, may ask him to go.

The timing of his birth prevents him from working for another two years, because the law that raises the re-employment age ceiling from 65 to 67 kicks in only on July 1 next year.

SIA Engineering, when contacted, said it has been offering re-employment to 65-year-olds but "on a case-by-case basis and subject to eligibility criteria". It declined to elaborate or say what proportion of its staff received the offer.

More companies, however, are offering their staff re-employment after the age of 65, said the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) last month.

The proportion has gone up from 42 per cent of unionised companies last year to 73 per cent this year.

Official figures also show that the percentage of people aged 65 to 69 still working here has jumped in 10 years, from just 24 per cent in 2006 to more than 40 per cent last year.

  • 24% Percentage of people aged 65 to 69 still working in 2006

    40% More than this percentage of people aged 65 to 69 were still working last year

Mr Subbiramaniam, who repairs aircraft engines, said he wants to work till he is 67 years old because his two sons, aged 18 and 24, have yet to finish their tertiary education.

Looking somewhat forlorn, he added: "I spent my whole life with this company. I'd feel so proud when I see its planes in the air. It brought me this far. Now without it, I feel lost."

He has sought help from the Singapore Airlines Staff Union, which has appealed to his company.

Others in the same boat are also turning to their unions. Singapore Industrial and Services Employees' Union general treasurer Philip Lee said, in the last few months, he has met three or four worried workers who will turn 65 before next July.

There could be more but they may prefer to stay silent, he added.

MPs and human resource experts are worried that some companies are ill prepared for the new re-employment law.

NTUC deputy secretary-general Heng Chee How criticised employers who are exploiting the 10 months before the new law kicks in, to retire healthy 65-year-olds.

Such an attitude"will only dampen their own capability and demoralise their other employees", said Mr Heng, who is also an MP for Jalan Besar GRC. "That would not be smart for business."

Mr David Ang, director of corporate services at Human Capital Singapore, said the economic slowdown, especially the oil crisis, is putting a strain on companies.

"When it comes to restructuring, older workers, who need a higher level of medical coverage, are the first to go," he added.

Most vulnerable are blue-collar workers because of the physically demanding work they do, said Singapore Human Resources Institute president Erman Tan.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2016, with the headline Workers turning 65 before next July worried. Subscribe