We need to redefine what is being old, as much as we need to redefine what it means to retire.
Yes, youths are known to be fast, humble, agile. Employers favour hiring the young person we all know that.
Singapore is still a little backward in enforcing non-discrimination. Though not talked about, it is no secret mature workers in their 50s and 60s take about six months on average to get hired. Worse, many have to take up to 20% pay cut when they start a job.
Low-wage workers are also discriminated against as they are perceived to have little education, thus lower bargaining power.
This is a very different world we live in. Many people seem to think that there is a magical number that you will suddenly retire and have lots of money to spend till the day you die. The reality is, this is not entirely true.
This becomes especially true in the 21st century, when uncertainties and volatility are the new normal. Industrial progress brings about inflation and lifestyles are getting increasingly expensive.
Even the family unit is different now. Singles and homosexuals, the numbers of which are burgeoning in society, will have to consider how they are going to finance their later years. Even those with children have to think about how family bonds will change in the future.
I’m not trying to paint a very gloomy picture – i’m just stating the facts and reality. If our attitudes towards the silver years is that of a retirement home; that we will clap hands and sing nursery rhymes, then we cannot blame the employer to think that the silver workers have outlived their usefulness.
We to change the attitudes of employers. To get them to understand that mature workers WANT to work and WANT to contribute – and they have especially important value to bring onboard a company. So an employer should be ashamed if he/she thinks a mature worker has outlived usefulness.
Heng Chee How of the NTUC tried to sell the concept to companies “…employers should look at keeping these (mature) workers and make sure they are productive. Companies can benefit, since the workers are experienced.”
In response, the Manpower Minister Tan Chuan Jin affirms that his Ministry will not rule out anti discrimination labour laws (see video below)
In Singapore today, job discrimination is not illegal (yet). But it is severely frowned upon by TAFEP (Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices). Companies blacklisted by TAFEP can see Tripartite sanctions on them – their labour quota restricted and their business shamed in public.
“Work” does not need to be a nasty word. Many people enjoy what they do… even until their old age. But for us to do so, we need to wipeout discrimination against age.
Editor: There are many programs in place to improve working conditions for mature workers. PWM for the cleaning (and soon security) sectors protect against pathetic wages, increase of CPF contribution by employers at mature ages (to match younger workers) and public campaigns by TAFEP. NTUC MPs continue to push for intricate protection such as enforced payslips, working contracts, portable medical benefits, increase of re-employment age and many more.