I recently had coffee with my auntie at the nearby coffeeshop in Serangoon, somewhere near my house. As it was my off day from my work at The Influencer Network (TIN), I could actually spend some quality time with Auntie. We were having coffee and cakes when the topic on working became the main focal point of our conversation.
I was sharing with her about my work in TIN and how work has become an integral part of my life. Some of you might not know that I used to be working freelance as a Blogger and have been taking part-time jobs here and there to supplement my income. The thought of working full time for the rest of your life can be quite daunting especially if you think that you are going to do the same thing, over and over again.
Auntie was sharing about how the older generation used to see work as an important part of their lives. In those days, finding work and having a decent earning is key. There is no such thing called passion. The older generation will do anything that can earn them a living and they will stay on in a job for a long period of time, she said.
Really, how times have changed? If you look around us, I believe a lot of young people are changing jobs like how they change their preference for brands or even their partner.
Another trend that I see is the pursuit for passion instead of a long-term career. I can see a lot more people pursuing their passion, like opening their café, launching their own album, be an artist, etc.
I pop Auntie a question ‘ How long do you want to work till’?
She laughed and replied ‘As long as I can!’
She went on to share that our retirement age is 62 in Singapore, meaning no employer can fire anyone below 62 on the grounds of age. She went on to tell me that NTUC is fighting to push the re-employment age from the current 65 to 67.
To be honest, I have always seen retirement as something that is at a far far far distance in my life, so I have not bothered to find out the details about these things. ‘Re-employment? What’s that?’
Auntie took a mouthful of her chocolate cake and said, ‘Once we reach the retirement age of 62, our employers have to offer us re-employment so long as we are still fit for the job. This re-employment offer is good for a year, and will be re-assessed and renewed on a yearly basis until we reach 65.’
She sipped her coffee and continued, ‘But like what I’d told you, NTUC is fighting to raise the re-employment age from 65 to 67.’
‘No wonder some people are saying we have to work until we die….’ I muttered under my breath.
Auntie chuckled loudly when she heard me. ‘Why do you say that? Many senior folks like me actually welcome the chance to be able to work longer! Raising the re-employment age is just giving us a chance to work IF we want to.’
She continued, ‘At the end of the day, it’s our choice. We can choose to work, or we can also choose to retire. The chance to work is there for us to make a choice; it does not force us to work until we die if we don’t want to.’
I have always thought that early retirement is what everyone is working towards. But my auntie made me think twice that day.
She shared that many senior folks actually prefer to work if they can! And it’s not just about the money. Many who continue to work beyond retirement age want to work to keep themselves active, and some want to stay relevant to the society. My auntie is one of those who strongly believe that working keeps her active and makes her younger!
Wow. That’s rich. I’ve never looked at it that way.
That same night as I was surfing online, something caught my eye on my Facebook timeline.
Whoa… Saw ‘chance’ and ‘choice’ in this post from ex-ST editor Bertha Henson. Just like what Auntie had spoken about that afternoon!!
I wonder about the intention of government raising the re-employment age from 65 to 67. Is our government trying to suggest to us that we should keep working, even at our old age? Shouldn’t our government be telling us to enjoy our life at our old age, and explore the finest things in life?
Auntie had told me that everyone’s wish is to retire early and to stop working at a very young age. However, she said that this is not realistic, especially in our society where we are seeing an ageing population and a shortage of workers. ‘People do want to stay active and relevant and contribute to the economy even at their golden age’, she said.
And very importantly, she shared that not everyone really knew what they wanted. For a very long time, she too thought that she wanted to retire early and just back and enjoy life. But trouble is we all live longer these days. Once retired, many senior citizens found themselves whiling away their time not doing anything constructive. And for many, it was just a matter of months, or even weeks, before they wished they were back at their old jobs. Guess it’s nicer to have somewhere to go to, something to do, and to be needed and all that jazz.
Did you know that Singapore ranks world's No.4 in Life Expectancy? Our average lifespan is 82 years old, with women living till 85 and men 80. So if we retire at 62, we actually have a good 20 years in our hands!
Twenty years. Wow. Just W.O.W.
Now it makes sense to me. Raising the re-employment age is a good move by the government since it actually helps address various issues. Like easing the manpower crunch, like keeping our workforce diverse, like ensuring that industry veterans can continue to contribute, and yes, like ensuring people with financial needs have the option to continue working.
Guess many people forget that re-employment is an option; it is not mandatory or anything. If they want to work, the chance is there. If they wish to retire, they can stop anytime. In a way, it also protects older workers their livelihood since they would have worked very hard for their employer.
And oh, I was reading Bertha Henson's article and I came across something new! Here, let me share that part that I thought was pretty interesting,
1. You get a call from your boss/HR manager, like three months before your birthday, to ask if you want to carry on working. That’s assuming you’re medically fit.
2. If you say no, then it’s “sayonara’’ and all the best to you.
3. If you say yes, then the employer will have to try to find you something to do. It could be your old job or a new role and then you start discussing terms. One-year contract, for example, that can be renewed till you hit 65. If you are not happy with the terms and you’re convinced that the employer is making it too tough for you to stay, you can go to the union or the ministry. (Problem then is what is considered “reasonable’’ terms)
4. If the employer doesn’t want you in your old job (maybe he has someone younger in mind) and can’t find a place for you anywhere, he’s supposed to help you find another job. That’s why he has to give you an Employment Assistance Payment, to help tide you over the job-seeking period.
I’d never heard about the Employment Assistance Payment (EAP)! If there are absolutely no positions open for you, your boss is compelled to pay you an EAP of minimum $4,500 to maximum $10,000. You can check out more details here.
Deputy labour chief Heng Chee How also said in an interview with Supper Club that ‘My take is that when you give a chance and a choice to people, nobody will mind. Because nobody is forced to work a day more than he or she wants to. But if (they) want to, then there is the opportunity to. From the worker’s perspective, that cannot be a bad thing. We are reflecting the main sentiment we hear from the ground that many workers are on re-employment, and they want to continue working and are capable of doing so.’
I think about my own old age. How long do I really want to work till? I think once we start working, we can’t stop. Work for the money, and also work for our passion. I used to hate to study and yearn to work. But now that I am working, I realized that there is no option to stop working; we just have to keep going. It’s just a mindset change. For now, I do hope to retire early and spend the later part of my life pursuing my passion and interests. Or maybe work part-time so as to still keep myself in tune with the pace of the world. Perhaps by then, the society may have even done away with the concept of retirement.
What are your thoughts? Share with me by commenting on my blog post.
Tags: 65 to 67 EAP mature workers National Trades Union Congress NTUC progessive wage model Re-employment age retirement retirement age in singapore seniors working Singapore singaporean