Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Prof Tommy Koh's article in the Straits Times (7 Jan)
Reading Malaysia's DPM's tribute to retired servicemen in The Star (30 Jan) reminds me of an article Singapore's Ambassador-at-Large, Professor Tommy Koh, 74, wrote in the Straits Times recently. In the article, Prof Koh argued the case for paying re-employed older workers a fair salary based on their performance and experience.

The current practice is for companies rehiring workers after they have reached the retirement age of 62 to pay them only a fraction of their last-drawn salary and offer them fewer medical benefits. The CPF contributions from these workers and their employers are also reduced. This makes re-employment unattractive for older workers. When they opt out of the work force, Singapore loses invaluable manpower.

Dr Choo Teck Chuan, 80
These unfair practices, says Prof Koh, is based on the common assumption that when workers reach the retirement age, they are no longer able to perform as efficiently as before. Not true, and to prove his point, he cites three octogenarians who still put in a full day's work six days a week. They are his dentist Dr Choo Teck Chuan, 80, his tailor Mr Edward Kwan, 80, and his optician Mr Leow Hock Chin, 83. "Their eyes are still sharp, and their hands steady," says Prof Koh.

Mr Edward Kwan, 80
"I don't think Dr Choo, Mr Kwan and Mr Leow are unique cases. Singaporeans now live much longer than they did a generation ago. If they are blessed with good health and are of sound mind and body, there is no reason to stop them from working or to downgrade them to a lower job or to reduce their pay and benefits. Given our manpower shortage, we should have a radical rethink about older workers and see them as assets and not liabilities.

Mr Leow Hock Chin, 83
People should be judged on the basis of their ability and performance and not on age. Those who wish to retire and can afford to do so, should, of course, be entitled to do so. But for others, who are fit and wish to continue to work, they should also be entitled to carry on," comments Prof Koh in the article.

Prof Tommy Koh, 74
"Work gives meaning to life. Work gives a person dignity and self-esteem. It is time for a mindset change. It is time to see our older workers in a new light. It is time for Singapore to recognise people like Dr Choo, Mr Kwan and Mr Leow as assets to our nation."

A round of applause to you, Prof Koh, for standing up for older workers. We may be past the retirement age, but life is certainly not slowing down for us, and we are keeping pace with it. The fact that the Singapore government has raised the retirement from 55 to the present 62, with a view to extending it to 67, proves the point that older people can still contribute much to the work force and to the development of the country.

(Except for lead photo, all photos from Straits Times.)


Lawrence said...

This will not have effect in fact, that's exactly what I suppose.
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Unknown said...

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Perform gives meaning to life. Perform gives a person pride and self-esteem. It's about here we are at a attitude change. It's about a chance to see our older workers in a new light.