Three in four older workers in Singapore don't intend to retire before 65; reasons include staying active, having purpose

SINGAPORE, July 3 (The Straits Times/ANN): Three in four older workers in Singapore have no intention of stopping work before they turn 65.

The top reasons for wanting to remain employed are to stay active, have a sense of purpose, maintain social connections and save up for old age, a study commissioned by The Sunday Times has found.

From last Friday (July 1), the retirement age for Singapore workers was raised from 62 to 63, and the re-employment age from 67 to 68. This is part of a gradual increase to address an ageing workforce, with the retirement age set at 65 and the re-employment age at 70 by 2030.

Observers said raising the retirement and re-employment ages will push more employers to tap the older talent pool amid a rising global talent shortage.

In Singapore, employers have to offer to re-employ eligible workers when they hit retirement age. This re-employment model has worked well for businesses and senior workers, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said.

Since the model was introduced in 2012, more than 90 per cent of eligible resident employees who wished to continue working have been offered re-employment at age 62. "We expect this trend to continue, given the tight labour market," said the ministry.

MOM encourages firms to adopt higher retirement and re-employment ages than the statutory requirements via efforts such as the Senior Worker Early Adopter Grant that offers funding support.

As at May, more than 5,200 firms have successfully applied for this grant and committed to raise their internal age caps, said the ministry. This has benefited more than 44,000 senior workers.

David Leong, managing director of human resources firm PeopleWorldwide Consulting, said some seniors need to work as they may not get family support, while others do so to pass the time.

Linda Teo, country manager of ManpowerGroup Singapore, said: "As Singapore has an ageing workforce, lifting the age limits will help retain skilled older workers. Companies also benefit from being able to retain most of their older workers, reducing the need to hire and train new employees."

The study commissioned by ST polled 172 workers aged 60 and above. The survey was conducted by consumer research firm Milieu Insight last month.

There remains concerns among respondents that senior workers are passed over on opportunities, have a tough time adjusting to new technologies and cannot work for long hours due to personal or health reasons.

In recent years, more employers have tried to build an age-friendly workplace, such as redesigning jobs and having flexible arrangements.

The public service - Singapore's largest employer - took the lead to raise the retirement age to 63 and offer re-employment to eligible officers until 68 from last July - a year ahead of the national schedule.

It has stepped up efforts to help its officers to stay relevant, including redesigning jobs, reskilling staff, implementing job rotations and focusing on workplace health, said the Public Service Division. "Our officers can also tap in-house career coaching services," it added.

Other employers have also adopted the revised age caps early.

On Cheong Jewellery, for instance, has nine staff aged above 65. To support older workers, the jewellery business has redesigned jobs to embrace technology, offered flexible work arrangements, and provided them with training and development opportunities.

Its managing director, Ho Nai Chuen, said: "So long as the employees performed satisfactorily, they were allowed to continue working beyond the retirement age, until they are physically unfit to work."

Shangri-La Hotel training manager Joshua Navin said mature workers are experienced and therefore integral to its operations. They also have good work ethics, which serves as a good example for their younger colleagues, he added.

The hotel has 42 staff over the age of 65, representing 5 per cent of its workforce. It has kept senior workers on the same pay and benefits even after they move to yearly contracts after retirement.

Older workers believe they offer rich know-hows that cannot be learnt from textbooks.

William Yeo, who has been with the People's Association for the past 41 years, said: "I will provide a listening ear (to my juniors) and share with them the experiences I have acquired."

The 62-year-old deputy constituency director of the Bedok Reservoir-Punggol Constituency Office added: "I also learn from them because they will share with me how I can use technology, such as virtual meeting software or social media."

Warren Golf and Country Club senior accounts assistant June Ang, 63, who prefers to work so she can stay connected and keep her mind active, said: "As long as I am healthy, I will continue to work and contribute." - The Straits Times/ANN

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