“WE’VE got to make old people productive and I don’t think there should be a retirement age. You work as long as you can work and you’ll be healthier and happier for it.

‘You ask me to stop working all of a sudden, I think I’d just shrivel up, face the wall and that’s that. But I’m still functioning, if not at the rate at which I was functioning, say, 20 years ago … I have aches and pains, but nothing terminal and I can keep going.

‘I think the Japanese solve it by giving the old people robots and gadgets to work with. So they are still productive. They take less pay.

‘Now this is where, in Singapore, it becomes very painful. You are (a) superior, suddenly your junior overtakes your position and you have less pay and he is the boss. So they find the psychological switch unpleasant.

‘I think we have to develop that approach to life: You’ve reached the maximum you can do at your age in that position, you move sideways and you take less pay and you move gradually to less and less pay because you are moving slower and slower, especially if you are doing physical work.

‘But that’s very hard to get across and many of our workers have preferred retirement and then they die early. If you keep doing what you were doing for almost the whole of your life, the chances are you will stay interested and engaged.

‘There’s something to do tomorrow and you keep going. If you start saying ‘Oh, I’m old’ and you start reading novels or playing golf or playing chess or Scrabble, you’re on your way down.”

-MM Lee, who is 86, when asked for his comments on how an ageing population might affect the push for higher productivity

Cartoon from My Sketchbook


Nation Builders by Martyn See:

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