Call to raise retirement age, CPF rates as planned

Heng Chee How says these and a higher re-employment age can help build retirement adequacy

Labour MP Heng Chee How
Labour MP Heng Chee How

Singapore has to press on with its timetable to raise Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution rates, as well as the retirement and re-employment ages, said labour MP Heng Chee How.

These measures are important in helping older workers build their retirement adequacy, alongside other initiatives such as flexible work arrangements and skills renewal, he added yesterday.

Mr Heng, who is also the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) deputy secretary-general and Senior Minister of State for Defence, said: "The tripartite partners have taken to legislation to ensure older workers have the opportunity to work longer by raising the retirement and re-employment ages." "After all, being employed is the best safety net, and companies need workers," he added during the debate on the Budget.

The tripartite partners of unions, employers and Government had agreed to raise the statutory retirement age from 62 to 65, and the re-employment age from 67 to 70 progressively over the coming decade.

This will start with a new retirement age of 63 and re-employment age of 68 from July next year.

CPF contribution rates for older workers were also set to increase from Jan 1 this year, but was deferred amid the pandemic to Jan 1 next year.

"The labour movement... supported that deferment because we understood that in the depth of that disruption, the most important thing is employment. We didn't want to put our older workers at an unnecessary greater risk of losing their jobs," Mr Heng said.

"Yet, we must be careful to keep pace with our original intent and purpose of helping older workers enhance their retirement adequacy, given our longer lifespans."

He called for the raising of CPF contributions and retirement and re-employment ages to proceed without further delay, or risk adversely impacting retirement adequacy.

The Government should also consider enhancing the Jobs Growth Incentive for workers above the age of 62 through added subsidies, suggested fellow labour MP and NTUC assistant secretary-general Desmond Choo (Tampines GRC).

"These workers are more prone to cyclical and structural changes. Furthermore, they are more likely to not be re-employed as companies seek to reduce costs. This will help companies to continue to hire older workers even during uncertain economic times," he said.

Mr Heng also urged the Government to step up specific, industry-focused efforts to help senior workers keep their jobs in distressed sectors such as aviation and retail.

It can also support companies in adopting flexible work arrangements more widely.

Importantly, older workers have to be included in skills building initiatives, he added.

"We must not let the progress achieved through painful adaptation during the pandemic... be wasted and allow old mindsets and prejudices to return to stymie us," he said.

"Otherwise, fast-changing business models and technology will displace senior workers at ever faster speeds, leading to the negative scenarios we dread."

The health of older workers also has to be safeguarded, especially amid the pandemic, he added.

"I urge the Government and the tripartite partners to work together to see how best to leverage science-based, cost-effective vaccination to enhance business resilience and senior worker health," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2021, with the headline 'Call to raise retirement age, CPF rates as planned'. Subscribe