When NTUC Member of Parliament Heng Chee How called for re-employment age to increase to 67, I noticed remarks such as this:
The accusation that government “is forcing” us to work till we die is false. It is a gross misunderstanding by someone who has formed his own conclusions before actually reading the article.
As a matter of fact, the call to raise the retirement age is protection for workers.
It is rubbish that the government is “forcing” you to work. You can retire whenever you wish. (Some of my friends have even chosen to do so in their early 30s). What an increase of retirement age means, is employers cannot ask you to leave the moment you turn 55.
In the name of cost cutting, employers have been known to give expensive older staff the golden handshake (or golden axe). As a result, workers in their 40s or 50s see the age as death sentence for their career.
When you extend the retirement age, you also help supplement the local workforce. With unemployment rate very, very low and foreigner work passes cut, employers must now consider keeping or reemploying older workers.
This would be beneficial for an ageing society such as ours, if people are willing to work, and companies willing to pay, it is win-win for both parties.
It benefits older families. Reproduction cycles are getting longer. Many couples are having children later and when children are still dependant, they cannot afford to be retired against their wishes. If one was terminated, in the name of retirement, poverty can become entrenched in a vicious cycle.
It is not just Singapore that is concerned with raising the retirement age.
Alan Pickering, former chairman of the National Association of Pension Funds, believes that longer life expectancy has made the official retirement age of 65 unworkable and that retirement age must be raised to 70.
The common grouse surrounding elderly workers, is that some say they are too old for manual work. Many feel sorry for those in their 60s and 70s doing the work of cleaners, and other manual jobs.
It must be pointed out again the employment landscape is fair and no one can be forced to do work against his/her wishes.
I spoke with Mdm. Goh, a cleaner in a primary school in Hougang and asked her why she did not consider a job as a cashier or an administrator. “Aiyah, do you think it is so easy? Aunty didn’t study a lot when I was younger and cannot do this work”.
We take education for granted. But those born before the 1960s were living in a time where schools and studying were not as prevalent. Almost 50% of women and men, between the ages of 55-59 had below secondary school education. The trend worsens as the ages get older (Source: Department of Statistics)
People are getting access to better healthcare. We are living longer and in better health as we age. Amongst Singaporeans aged 65 in 2006, 67% can expect to be alive at age 80 and 47% at age 85.
Pair this with a baby boomer generation entering retirement age in another short few decades. By 2030, only 3.5 persons will be supporting one elderly.This will result in a smaller population of younger Singaporeans with less disposable income as they care for dependants.
With a raise of the retirement age, the administration is merely opening opportunities for elderly workers who wish to return or continue employment, instead of having doors shut on them.
The raising of retirement age enables workers, putting the power of choice back into their hands.
PS: Some think raising retirement age is synonymous with raising the age you can withdraw you CPF. It isn’t so. You can still withdraw at 55 years of age. And although there is a Minimum Sum requirement (you need to keep a minimum of $148k in your account for monthly drawdowns at age 65), you can still opt out of this Minimum Sum scheme if you have bought a life annuity for yourself.