Reinvent retirement, not extend age

  • Corporate News
  • Saturday, 07 Sep 2019

New opportunities: A file picture showing some retirees taking part in community-based activiies in Petaling Jaya. Some 10 years ago, the only option available for unskilled workers who retired was to end up as security guards. There are now opportunities in the gig economy.

Nobody really retires unless they want to. Come to think of it, one can be considered to be retired if they choose not to work anymore. It can be at age of 30,40 or 50. It does not have to be at 60.

Just recently, a friend who retired two years ago “un-retired” by coming back into the workforce in a less stressful capacity. The notion that retirement is only at 60 no longer applies in today’s world.

The official retirement age is 60 and none other than our 93-year-old Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has stated that the government would not increase it. Even if the government decides to increase the retirement age, not many companies will follow suit, unless they are compelled to do so by law.

This is because it is costly to keep an aged workforce.

When the government increased the age of retirement to 60 six years ago, the private sector did the same. Apart from companies incurring additional cost, a peculiarity that cropped up was that not all opted to work until 60.

A good number opted out at 55, especially when the companies embarked on manpower-rationalisation schemes.

Retirement at 50 is the mantra of the Millennials. Travelling to the nooks and corners of the world, cycling in Europe or trekking the mountains of Himalaya is what the younger workforce look forward to as they approached their 50s. The more fortunate of the Millennials can reach the ideal objective if they are left with a handsome inheritance.

However, with the gig economy fast taking shape, retirement at 55 or less is spreading to the larger workforce.

It is common to see many in their late 40s and 50s opting out of full-time employment to steer the wheels of a Grab car to supplement their income. The more senior of retirees tend to work in less hectic outfits such as foundations and organisations dealing with people.

Some 10 years ago, the only option available for unskilled workers who retired was to end up as security guards. Now, it is no longer the case. There are opportunities for even the most unskilled of labour in the gig economy.

It is only a matter of whether those who are out of a job when they reach the compulsory retirement age of 60 would want to explore a new life.

The professionals have options. For instance, judges and executives in the oil and gas industry work until the age of 65. College professors continue to lecture well into their 70s. The logic behind their case for employment beyond 60 is that their expertise and experience is not easily replaced.

Nowadays, companies offer part-time employment for those who opt to retire at 60 or earlier. In that way, the companies retain their skills at a much lower cost. As for employees, it gives them some space to reinvent themselves to do other things in life, apart from the work life they are so used to.

Generally, it is those in the lower-income bracket who are the more unfortunate ones when it comes to the compulsory retirement age of 60. More often than not, they are not given an extension or offered part-time employment. The company cannot be blamed as their work is routine and does not require any specialisation. It is more costly for the company to retain them.

It is this group of people that tends to look for options after they reach the age of retirement.

Unfortunately, the lower-income group only starts looking at options when they are nearly 60 years old. This is an area where the government can help by coming up with programmes or incentives to encourage people who are in their 50s to re-skill.

In some countries such as Singapore, the government provides financial assistance to help pay the fees of working adults if they enrol themselves in an accredited college to undertake a course to equip themselves with new skills. Most people opt to take up courses in IT because it is an area that requires manpower.

Preparation for retirement should start at 50 or 55, not at 59.

Left to their own devices, those in that age group would be reluctant to embark on equipping themselves with a new skill. However, with some financial assistance and incentives from the government, they would start looking at the courses available.

It is not easy for those in their late 40s or 50s to enrol in a technical college or institution to re-skill themselves. But if they do take the first step, with some financial assistance from the government, the probability of them succeeding is high compared to a young student.

We are talking about mature students who tend to perform better in colleges. Financial assistance to this group of people should garner better results than most other schemes.

The fear is that increasingly, artificial intelligence (AI) is taking shape, replacing the routine work of humans.

However, machines powered by AI cannot replace inter-personal skills and experience in handling people.

This is an area best handled by the wise with years of experience.

The views expressed here are solely that of the writer.

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