‘60 is the new 50’

KUALA LUMPUR: Having retired after working for 33 years, 61-year-old Vijay Nadarajah wants nothing more than to return to work.

It has been almost two years since he moved back to Malaysia from overseas, where he had spent about 18 years working in countries such as Indonesia, Oman and Pakistan for a Hong Kong-based international port management company.

Under company policy, he had to retire once he hit 60, the same as in Malaysia. He spent the first six months of retirement visiting his twin daughters in Canada with his wife.

But once back home in Shah Alam, Selangor, filling his days playing golf and travelling was not an option.

“I understand that, you know, (my former company) has this (policy of mandatory retirement age at 60). But I just feel you still have a lot of capacity to deliver, especially these days,” he told Bernama.

As such, he scoured available job postings and hired a headhunter to find him a job.

Vijay also took classes to improve his skills and stay up to date. He signed up with a recruitment portal that connects senior citizens with prospective employers.

Like many his age, he does not consider himself ready to be put out to pasture, feeling that 60 is the new 50.

Thanks to advances in healthcare and improved living standards, Malaysians are living longer and healthier lives.

However, there has not been enough focus on trying to help retirees find employment although a few – such as HireSeniors, the recruitment portal for people above 50, and Talent Corporation Malaysia Bhd (TalentCorp) – have started the ball rolling.

Malaysia hit aging nation status in 2021 with 7% of the population aged 65 and above, according to the Statistics Department.

Come 2030, it will likely increase to 14%, making Malaysia an aged nation.

The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) said projections suggest that people above 60 will reach 7.3 million by 2040.

New 60-year-olds in Malaysia can expect to live another decade or so, with an additional 18.2 years for men and 20.9 for women, according to the Statistics Department.

The fertility rate has also been trending downwards, hitting a low of 1.6 children per woman in 2023.

Economists say a 2.1 birth rate is needed to replace the current workforce. To make up for the shortage, older people would likely have to remain in the workforce for much longer.

But despite the acknowledgement that the average age of people in the labour force in the future will be older, there has not been much chatter regarding job opportunities for senior citizens.

What few available services to connect seniors with jobs remain limited or very new.

For instance, the government-linked TalentCorp, which falls under the purview of the Human Resources Ministry, has several programmes to assist Malaysian seniors in finding jobs.

TalentCorp Group chief executive Thomas Mathew said the government is also actively involved in the National Ageing Blueprint study, scheduled to be completed in 2024.

“TalentCorp has taken proactive steps since June last year to ensure these senior employees may obtain employment and continue to contribute meaningfully to the country.

“Although on a small scale, the first step is always to change the future and provide for their economic needs,” he said.

Experts told Bernama ageism is prevalent in the Malaysian job market.

They said many companies place age limits when recruiting employees, such as excluding candidates above 40 years of age.

MEF vice-president Farid Basir said it is a shame as many retirees and senior citizens have a wealth of experience and wisdom they can share with the younger generation and help with the knowledge transfer.

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