Monday, August 20, 2007

Leg-up for older workers: More Workfare and chance to be rehired

This article is from The Straits Times, Monday August 20.

Yesterday, PM Lee made his National Day Rally speech mapping out strategies that would be used to tackle issues such as the ageing population, the widening income gap and the increase of retirees, which I will be discussing about in this entry. Due to the baby boom in Singapore after World War 2, the population of Singapore has increased constantly. With an advancement in technology, the average age of Singaporeans has been increasing recently, observing the effects of an ageing population. Like Japan, the government is trying to then increase the retiring age from 62 to 65.

The title reads, 'Leg-up for older workers' showing that the government encourages employers in Singapore to re-employ older workers (presumably aged 55). Another point to take note is, despite the increasing population in Singapore, the birth rate is not able to 'replenish' the death rate. Singaporeans, like many other urbanised countries face issues of the younger generation not willing to marry and give birth as they are more work orientated, especially the women. Soon, those in the bottom of the population pyramid will start to take on heavier responsibilities, needing to support more older people from their parents' generation. Therefore, by increasing the retirement age of these workers, the older generation would be self dependant and will not need to rely on the support of the young generation.

However, are these workers at the age of 62 still willing to continue working after such stressful working days for the past 20 to 30 years? I would not think so. Yes, there might be workaholics who will still be glad to remain in the workforce but most will not. Imagine after working under tremendous stress and pressure day in and out. Would you be willing to retire at an even older age? Many people will look forward to spending their time waking up early in the morning, not to rush off to work, but to go for a little stroll at the park and then go for their favourite activities in the afternoon at a community centre, or even a long holiday. Not many will then look forward to their postponed retirement.

This is a challenge to the government if they would really want to solve the problem of an ageing population. Employers would also not choose these old workers as they may not be able to produce the quality of work of what a young worker can. Furthermore, these people may not be equipped with skills that are needed in this country with advanced technology. However, in the news article, PM Lee answered these questions confidently. Regarding the lack of skills of the older workers to get employed, he said that it "doesn't mean you will definitely get a job but the employer has to make an offer and take into account the worker's performance, health, preferences and the company's needs, and both sides work out a win-win arrangement."

Although I am still a student preparing to enter the workforce soon enough, I am convinced that the working years of Singaporeans can be increased for the sake of the community's sustainability in the world.

(500 words)

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