My parents are in their seventies. They retired about a decade ago. My mother retired first. For the first week of her retirement, she was quite happy. But she started falling ill soon after. Very ill. She was just not used to not waking up early, not going out, not working. She managed to get a job at a childcare centre. And she got better. Ya… she complains of aches and pains here and there. But she’s healthy. And happier than if she isn’t working. My dad has a similar story.
So… even though they don’t need to work, both my parents are still working. Which has done wonders for their physical health and mental wellbeing. That said, my parents were lucky to be able to get their new jobs. They were at the right place at the right time. They met the right people. It wasn’t a given that they would have been able to get jobs after their retirement.
With people living longer, I think there’s a greater need for people to stay in the labour force for longer. Especially for those who haven’t been able to save enough in their younger years, they certainly should work more years so that they have enough money to last them through the years when they are physically unable to work.
That’s why I think it’s great that the government has raised the re-employment age. From the second half of this year, employers will be legally obliged to offer re-employment to eligible Singaporean workers up to the age of 67, two years higher than the current age ceiling. It doesn’t mean that ALL Singaporeans HAVE to work till 67 or beyond. It is meant to make it easier for people who WANT to or those who really HAVE to work till 67 to do so.
But I think that’s still not enough. As Mr Heng Chee How, Deputy Secretary-General of NTUC said:
“A company will only employ a worker when there is a need to create a job position, and when they find a candidate whom they believe is worth employing.”
And as we move deeper into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, rapid advancements in technology are greatly changing the way goods are produced and services are provided. Merely legislating that companies MUST re-employ mature workers won’t be enough. There must be other measures put in place that make it worth employers’ while to re-employ mature workers.
That was the point that Mr Heng made in Parliament. He cited measures such as extending the Employment Credits scheme. This scheme will reduce net business cost of employing mature workers, thus making it easier for employers to re-employ mature workers.
Another set of measures Mr Heng brought up are meant to help match displaced mature workers quickly. Mr Heng said:
“To do this well, there is a need to significantly improve our knowledge of where the jobs and displacements of today and the future are. We also need to enrol the mature workforce into life-long adaptive upgrading much more intensively, and find ways to guide such learning and re-learning beyond providing funding.”
But of all the things that Mr Heng said, I find this most interesting:
“It would also require significantly enhancing social support and lowering switching costs for displaced mature workers undergoing re-training for new jobs and sectors. They have families to feed and commitments to meet. If left without systematic transition support, many more are likely to exhaust their resources and end up in suboptimal work.”
What does Mr Heng mean by the systematic transition support. The concern that people who are retrenched may end up in suboptimal work is an argument used by proponents of an unemployment/retrenchment insurance. Does this mean that Mr Heng, and some people in NTUC, are willing to consider some form of unemployment/retrenchment insurance? If so, then there may be hope that we may not be far from seeing an unemployment/retrenchment insurance being implemented in Singapore.
That said, I’m not holding my breath. Given how philosophically against unemployment/retrenchment insurance some of our politicians are, I think it’ll be a long time before an unemployment/retrenchment insurance scheme gets implemented here. That said, I’m still happy that there are steps taken to help people stay employed for longer. Put all these steps together, I think that when I get old, I will have a better chance to keep on working until I physically aren’t able to. And I’m honestly excited about that!
[Image from C3A]