Saturday, March 25, 2017

TIME TO GIVE A LEG UP TO RETIREES WHO WANT TO STUDY


I wrote a letter to the papers a week ago. If it didn't get published, here is the original below. About time to give a thought if not a boost to retirees who want to get back to school. Not all of us, especially from the middle income group, can afford the fees. A scholarship even a partial one would certainly be a nice gesture of appreciation for all the years we spent working and serving the nation, the community.

TIME TO GIVE A LEG UP TO RETIREES WHO WANT TO STUDY

With the recent release of SPM results, universities and other institutions of higher education are going all out to promote their degree courses. The print media is filled with their ads, and lists of scholarships available to the top scorers. Indeed, school leavers are spoilt for choice at education fairs that are held several times a year.

On the flip side, there is a growing number of people who are left out in the cold when it comes to further education and career opportunities. I am referring to older adults who would like to learn new skills or enrol for a course of study to improve their chances of returning to the work force. What options are available to them? Almost none.

The government has raised the retirement age to 60 to encourage workers to remain working longer and save more for their retirement. But once older employees have left the work place, getting back to it is a huge challenge. Almost all doors are closed to them, no thanks to agesim being alive and well in both the public and corporate sectors. Not many institutions of further education conduct re-training in skills for older adults. Where can they go to upgrade their IT skills, for example? Or learn about digital marketing and entrepreneurship? When it comes to enrolling for a degree course, there are no scholarships available for them. Their chances of getting a bank loan to further their education is practically nil.

One wonders whether conventional thinking has much to do with this practice of agesim - that it is a waste of resources to invest in older people. After all, they do not have many productive years left. But statistics show that people are now living longer and better. In Malaysia, life expectancy has risen to 76, and set to rise even further. In Singapore, it is 85. When we retire at 65, we still have many more productive years ahead to contribute to the economy and nation-building.

With the rising cost of living and the depreciation of the ringgit, few among us can afford to stay retired. Our retirement savings will not be enough to provide financial security for those of us who retire at 55 or even 60. The new credo is to work for as long as we are able, and not depend on our adult children to support us. They have their own financial commitments to deal with.

It is incumbent on the government to provide free or subsidized skills training for older people to enable them to support themselves and to build a bigger retirement nest. With young people getting married at a later age, and delaying raising a family, there will be fewer young people in future to support a growing older population. Unless there are programmes to help older people get back to work, the government will have to face the burden of providing welfare aid for the elderly.

In countries like Vietnam, South Korea and Singapore, ageing in poverty has become a reality. Let's not wait for this to happen in Malaysia.

1 comment:

Michael Manago said...

I am a believer of DIY and in this age of connectivity where the abundance of information available at our fingertips is more than we can handle in two lifetimes. a senior who wants to get more educated and informed, not necessarily get a degree. can easily do so by spending a few hours surfing for information he/she in interested in.

Joseph Dabon - http://www.agewithcharm.com/