Tuesday 8 March 2016

More in Singapore remaining in workforce past 65

Over 40% of people aged 65-69 still hired
Govt policies, tight job market and rise in life expectancy among reasons for increase
By Salma Khalik, Senior Health Correspondent and Aw Cheng Wei, The Straits Times, 7 Mar 2016

More people are remaining in the workforce beyond the official retirement age of 62, and the recontract age of 65.

More than 40 per cent of people aged 65 to 69 were still working last year, compared with just 24 per cent in 2006, according to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

Government policies, a tight job market and a rise in life expectancy and healthy years are among the factors for the increase.

Take, for instance, the requirement for companies to rehire workers aged 62 to 65. Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor, who is on the Ministerial Committee on Ageing, told The Straits Times: "Nearly all who approached 62 are offered re-employment.

"Most do not suffer any cut to their basic pay if they continue on the same job with the same job scope and responsibilities."

In 2014, 98 per cent who continued working beyond the age of 62 did not suffer any basic wage cut, with about 10 per cent earning higher wages.

Life expectancy here has been going up by about three years every decade and, in 2014, life expectancy was 80.5 years for men and 84.9 years for women.

As people live longer, they worry about whether they have enough for retirement, said Mr David Ang, director of consultancy Human Capital Singapore.

With an income, they remain financially independent and do not have to rely on their children. This helps their self-worth.

Many also realise that working even part-time keeps them socially and mentally engaged, said Singapore Management University labour economist Hoon Hian Teck.

Most employed Singaporeans and permanent residents over age 60 work as cleaners, labourers, machine operators, and service and sales workers, according to MOM statistics last year.

The Government has also made it more affordable for companies to hire older workers, said Professor Hoon. Government subsidies for companies that hire workers aged 65 and above "send the message that companies can productively hire (seniors) in an increasingly labour-scarce economy", he said.

The Workfare Income Supplement, introduced in 2007, has also added to the incomes of older, low-wage workers.

Labour economist Walter Theseira of SIM University said: "Income for older workers is higher now than it was in the past."

According to MOM, the median gross monthly income for resident workers aged 60 years and older increased from $1,160 in 2006 to $2,000 last year.

Because of the tight job market, employers have "to seriously consider older workers" as it is getting harder to employ foreign labour, said Professor Theseira.

Last year, one in four people aged 65 and above was employed. In 2006, this was 13.8 per cent.

Mr Ang predicted that by the next decade, the employment rate for senior citizens "will hit 30 per cent easily".

With the changing demographics, companies have to adapt to remain productive. Jobs are being redesigned and more companies are looking to design more senior- friendly workplaces, he said.

"The trend is to reduce fatigue, while maintaining productivity," said Mr Ang.

Cleaner Lee Kiong Mei, 67, a widow who has been at her job for five years, said that staying employed gives her purpose and makes her feel financially independent.

She said: "My children have their own families, and living expenses can be expensive. I don't want them to worry about me. Besides, I am happy at my job. I won't know what to do if I have no work. I am afraid that if I stop working, I will fall sick."


60-64 years old 149,200

65 - 69 years old 74,900

70 years and older 40,400


More than 20 per cent of Japanese older than 65 still work.
Posted by The Straits Times on Wednesday, March 2, 2016

More people are remaining in the workforce beyond the official retirement age of 62, and the recontract age of 65.
Posted by The Straits Times on Sunday, March 6, 2016

Japan's seniors still toiling away
Employers pressured to hire older workers as population ages and labour force shrinks
The Straits Times, 3 Mar 2016

TOKYO • Many people his age would be happy to slip on a cardigan and put their feet up, but not Mr Teruo Sugiura.

The 86-year-old makes his way to a seniors' work centre in Tokyo several days a week, where he repairs traditional Japanese sliding doors. It does not pay much, but that has not stopped Mr Sugiura from turning up for the past 20 years. He is one of millions of elderly people still collecting wages into retirement age. "I'm working to keep my body in good shape," says Mr Sugiura, a former sweets salesman.

"I think it's wrong not to be doing anything. There's no point staying at home twiddling my thumbs."

Japan's silver-haired workers are everywhere these days - from wrinkled men waving glow sticks at construction sites to checkout counter clerks or caregivers for the very old. And this geriatric working class shows no sign of shrinking - more than 20 per cent of Japanese older than 65 still work.

That is the highest proportion among developed economies and a figure likely to soar as the pool of younger workers shrinks and the fast-ageing population squeezes a strained social welfare system.

People over 65 are expected to account for nearly 40 per cent of the greying population by 2060 as Japan wrestles with a low birth rate.

And the country's labour force - the number of employed and unemployed people aged 15 to 64 - is at risk of losing more than 27 million workers in the same time frame, a drop of about 42 per cent from current levels, according to a government advisory panel.

Demand for workers is high and the jobless rate for January, published on Tuesday, was an enviable 3.2 per cent, a two-decade low and well below that in the United States and many European nations.

In response to demographic shifts, the government is gradually raising the official retirement age and starting age for state pension payments to 65. The official retirement age will be raised in steps from 61 to 65 by 2025. It will be raised to 62 next month.

"This is enough incentive for (seniors) to push back their retirement and keep working," investment bank Goldman Sachs says in a report on Japan's labour market.

And Tokyo is putting the pressure on firms to keep workers on longer, or by hiring older employees. Some companies have responded, including carmaker Honda, which has said it would raise its working age by five years to 65 starting next month, a move that could affect tens of thousands of workers.

Meanwhile, convenience store chain Circle K Sunkus has trained a handful of elderly people, in a nod to the ageing labour pool. And electronics giant Ricoh has called on retired technicians to get its computers ready to be installed.

"There is very strong market pressure for employers to keep older people," says Dr Atsushi Seike, a professor of labour economics and president of Tokyo's Keio University. "The drastic decline of the workforce will have a significant impact on the behaviour of employers.

"Many are willing to boost the number of older workers, and I think this trend will continue - or even accelerate - in the future."

More than half a million older Japanese find jobs through the government-subsidised National Silver Human Resources Centre Association, including 63-year-old Junko Kondo, who says her government pension is not enough.

"I'm saving the money I make here," she says, as she assembles packaging for salt sold at luxury stores. "I'll use it to buy presents for my grandchildren, or a sweater, or maybe just lunch for myself."

The reasons for Japan's elderly staying in the workforce vary, but keeping mentally and physically fit is key for many. It also puts some extra money in seniors' pockets, although the wages paid by the Silver Centres are low - an average of 37,000 yen (S$455) a month.

But for people like Ms Taeko Mishima, 74, the extra money could be a lifesaver. She worries that the pensions she and her husband collect are not enough to cover the cost of staying at a nursing home with medical care, which could add up to as much as 300,000 yen a month. "My pension isn't high enough to pay for that."


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