NTUC Chief Ng: Senior workers told me they welcome opportunity to work longer for active ageing

At the recent National Day Rally on Aug 18, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the retirement age will go up from 62 to 65 and re-employment age from 67 to 70 by 2030.

In view of PM Lee’s announcement, Straits Times organised a round-table discussion on the matter last Friday (23 Aug) to solicit views from the following people:

  • Manpower Minister Josephine Teo
  • NTUC Chief Ng Chee Meng
  • Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) president Robert Yap
  • NUS Associate Professor and economist Chia Ngee Choon

The participants hope that by 2030, the country will see more “multi-generational” workplaces, where older workers share their experience and younger workers share their creativity and energy.

Prof Chia, who wants to see more elderly people working, said, “I’d like to see when I walk out to a pharmacy, there is an older worker. That is the 2030 I hope to see, where we have more enlightened employers, people go for retraining, and workers can adapt.”

Ng Chee Meng also noted that senior workers had told him they welcome the opportunity to work longer.

“The workers that I’ve spoken to, especially the senior ones, give almost unanimous positive feedback about the direction in which we are going,” he said.

“They welcome the opportunity where they choose to work that bit longer: for active ageing, on one part; building up the retirement adequacy nest (egg), on the other hand; and, importantly, to have a longer runway to participate in contributing constructively to society.”

Indeed, if what the NTUC Chief said is true, it’s quite heartening to note that our senior workers are all very altruistic, willing to sacrifice their old age and continue to work, all for “contributing constructively to society”. Our 4G leaders should feel glad too to have such self-sacrificing citizens in our country.

Workers can’t wait till 2030 for govt to complete changes

In fact, he said the workers’ sentiment is that they can’t wait for the retirement and re-employment age to change by 2030.

“The sentiment is: ‘Do we need to take so long? In-10-years is a long time, Sec-Gen. Can we do it a little bit faster?’,” he said.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo agreed and added, “Yesterday would have been better.”

Prof Chia commented, “For those people in the Merdeka Generation, they will miss out (the changes). Those who are 59 and below will be the beneficiaries of the increase in retirement age and the possibility of re-employment to age 70.”

The panel was asked that perhaps some companies might not be so receptive to take in older workers.

Ng Chee Meng replied, “Some employers do look at age as the proxy of learning ability and productivity.”

“Well, we do what we can do. We make sure that we stay healthy. We maintain our adaptability, no matter what age we may be,” he added.

“You can be young, and you can be totally non-adaptable. You can be older and be completely nimble and adaptable. Don’t let age define us. Change your attitude, take action, prove yourself to your employers.”

Elderly works herself to death

Meanwhile, there have been reports of Singaporean elderly working till they literally dropped dead in their workplace.

Sometime ago, there was a media report about an 80-year-old dishwasher, Mdm Ho, who died while working at ABC hawker centre in Bukit Merah. She died inside the toilet, sitting on the toilet bowl.

According to the report, Mdm Ho worked daily from morning till night, 7 days a week. She had to wash some 200 dishes a day. She only had 2 days off a month.

“When I saw her yesterday, she was walking unsteadily and appeared pale. I heard she has been having diarrhea for the past few days,” her supervisor told the media then.

If Mdm Ho was still alive today, it’s not known if she would tell NTUC Chief Ng that she truly welcomed the opportunity to work longer.