Lim Boon Heng: People should work as long as they can

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The former labour chief Lim Boon Heng said people should work for as long as they can, in tune with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announcement that the re-employment age will be raised from 65 to 67 on 1 July 2017.

Mr Lim, 69, who chairs National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Enterprise – the social enterprise arm of labour movement NTUC – was speaking yesterday (26 Mar) at the launch of a training programme by the Centre For Seniors, where he is the patron.

Mr Lim holds multiple titles – he chairs the NTUC Enterprise Co-operative, is the Chairman of Temasek Holdings, and is also the deputy chairman of Singapore Labour Foundation.

He said, "We should work for as long as we are able to work, and want to work, although we should not expect the same pay."

When the legislation takes effect, employers have to rehire retired workers in the same or a similar job, until the re-employment age of 65.

"Don't be surprised that a few years from now, someone else may be talking about a retirement age which is beyond 70," Mr Lim said.

The former Member of Parliament said people usually see the need to keep working only when they reach the retirement age. He said, "Not many people can look forward to see what life could be. When people reach retirement age, they look at their CPF (Central Provident Fund) savings, bank accounts and commitments, then (that’s when) they ask if they can afford to retire."

“Some can, and some can even retire earlier, but many would still need to continue to work,” he said.

Nevertheless, whether or not a person has financial reasons for working after retirement age, doing so can give him health benefits, more resilience and a sense of purpose, Mr Lim stated.

He advised seniors to get new skills to keep the sense of curiosity we are born with, ”With the right attitude, old dogs can learn new tricks," he said.

Mr Lim also urged the wider community not to underestimate the ability of seniors to cope with the digital world. "They are used already to different forms of cashless payments; all that our seniors need is guidance on how to use the devices," he said.

Mr Lim said NTUC and the Education and Manpower ministries should help people cope with change, and a basic programme should be offered to help seniors be aware of the digital revolution. For example, simple coding classes could be offered to the elderly, he said.

On 25 March the Centre For Seniors also launched CFS LifeWork, aimed at addressing concerns about career, re-employment, health and family that affect mature workers during the different stages of life, especially at critical age junctions of 55, 62 and 67 years.

About 330 people aged 40 to 70 have participated in at least three of the five workshops when LifeWork was piloted last year.