The Opposition’s New Narrative on Rising Retirement Age

You know, it’s very strange. I was trying hard to look for snarky comments and come-backs at things related to the National Day Rally…and lo and behold…these were few. Even the critical Mr. Brown had nice things to say about the National Day Rally.

What about the rising Retirement Age bit? Surely the employers will be annoyed. After all, they’re the ones that would be directly affected. Employers now cannot terminate staff because of age and over the years, have to progressively reemploy staff that have reached retirement age. And then there is CPF restoration. Which in short, means salaries to be paid will go up for employers.

But this is Singapore. No policy will take anyone by surprise or disadvantaged suddenly. This conversation had taken place as early as 2010 (and some argue, as far back as the recession of the 80s when CPF rates were first cut). From trade unions to government, they have all come about to get employers to understand, discuss and debate this problem. All stakeholders are well prepared for yesterday’s announcements.

As for the netizens, well, it is observable that the “gahmen want us work until die” comments are fading off. And it is about time. This is the domain of weak thinking and I am glad that this pool of people are shrinking. At this point in time, the people get it: no the government doesn’t WANT you to work longer. You CAN work into your late years IF you want to. 

But – the opposition has a new narrative. In this case, it is no longer “gahmen want you to work till you die”. Rather it is now “do you have enough to retire”? It is a simple, rhetorical question. However as rhetoric goes, it is far too simple. To make this simplicity more damning, internet trolls have now turned to posting pictures of cleaners and elderly picking cardboard boxes.

Let’s make things clear: data has shown that if you have been working and contributing to the CPF regularly for a large part of your adult life, you won’t have anything to worry about. You’ll have shelter. You’ll have enough for medical care. You’ll have CPF money handed out to you each month to take care of you daily NEEDS and if you you have worked hard, you’ll also have a bounty to withdraw at age 55. 

There you go. Sorted. What else do you need for retirement other than food, shelter and world class medical care? It’s all taken care of. If you want more – if you want to travel, to leave a legacy for your children and so on… it is fair to say that you’ll have to work for those things. And the rising retirement age helps to take care of that.

You see, the problem with the snapshots of elderly picking up cardboard boxes today…is that it is just that: a snapshot today. These people are likely in their mid 70s and beyond. Which means they were born during or before the Japanese Occupation. Can you imagine that? They were born in a time period that is in your history textbooks. 

They did not have access to education, healthcare, hygiene, nutrition and never had social support until Singapore really started to get going. By then, they were already in their 50s..fast heading into their 60s. 

So it is rather silly to be posting pictures of people who never had the means, who never had access to the resources we have today and then say we are going to end up like them. That’s being hypocritical. This energy would be so much better spent creating an industry that would hire and pay people who are lowly skilled. 

Today, we live in a Singapore that has so much more, that has achieved plenty and is able to give back to citizens because of the success that have been snowballing over the years.

Indeed the opposition is coming up with new narratives to poke old holes. They are keen proponents of “rocking the boat” and to “shake things up”. Well, Singapore has only seen a few decades of independence and is still an infant in the context of nations. Do you know what happens when you shake an infant? You get shaken baby syndrome – irreversible brain damage that sets progress back in time.

It is important to arm ourselves with fact and critical thinking and not let mischievous narratives cloud our progress.

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