The Government appears to firmly believe that “most” Singaporeans desire to work longer. Like many of his fellow People’s Action Party (PAP) leaders, Singapore Prime Minister reiterated this stance when he delivered his National Day Rally speech on Sunday (18 Aug).
PM Lee had said: “Most seniors in fact do not want to stop working. We are healthy for longer and living longer, but we do not want to spend more years idle in retirement. We want to stay active and engaged, to feel a sense of worth and purpose.
“Also many of us want to build up a bigger nest egg for when we eventually retire. Therefore, many of us have multiple careers in a lifetime.”
PM Lee added that the Government will do its part to help those who wish to work longer and announced that the Government will raise the Retirement Age from 62 to 65, raise the Re-employment Age from 67 to 70 and increase CPF contributions for older workers over the coming years.
The ruling party chief’s views that “most” Singaporeans desire to work longer parrots the views of his party members who have shared the same opinion, in the recent past.
In January this year, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said that minimum Central Provident Fund (CPF) payout eligibility age will remain at 65 and will not be lowered since Singaporeans wish to work longer and save more.
In June, she repeated this sentiment when she said that “people living longer…is a key reason that they work longer.”
Citing a report that showed that the healthy life expectancy of Singaporeans has risen by 7.2 years to 74.2 years and that life expectancy has risen by 8.7 years to 84.8 years, in the last 27 years, Ms Teo said that this means that “most of the increase in life expectancy for Singaporeans is years of good health.”
Sharing that she is “encouraged” by the report, the People’s Action Party (PAP) politician said: “People living longer and generally healthier lives is a key reason that they work longer – this is a trend that we observed across many developed countries.”
About a month later, in July, Senior Minister of State Amy Khor said that Singaporeans who are living longer can help to offset the low birth rates if more of them continue working for longer.
Speaking at the opening of the High-Level Forum on the Silver Economy in Helsinki, Finland, the PAP parliamentarian essentially called on the elderly to work longer to compensate for the nation’s low birth rate.
Like her ruling party colleague Ms Teo, Dr Khor highlighted that Singaporeans had a life expectancy of 84.8 years in 2017 and that 74.2 of these years were lived in full health.
While acknowledging that a higher life expectancy comes with “disease burden and frailty that comes with old age,” Dr Khor called a higher life expectancy an “opportunity” for older Singaporeans to participate in the labour force especially since the birth rate is low.
She said: “This brings opportunities for greater labour force participation at older ages, and is important for a country like Singapore where birth rates are relatively low.”
While members of the Government like PM Lee, Ms Teo and Ms Khor continue asserting that elderly Singaporeans wish to “work longer” and paint situations where the elderly are forced to work since they are unable to retire as situations that the elderly prefer, the Government also repeatedly says that Singapore has an “ageing population” that will need more resources in the years to come.
Even as the Government boasts about the higher life expectancy, it uses the “ageing population” argument as one of the reasons it plans to implement a tax hike.
In 2018, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) will increase by 2 per cent. This tax hike will raise the GST from 7 per cent to 9 per cent and will be implemented sometime between 2021 and 2025, most likely after the next General Election.
Mr Heng said that one of the reasons that necessitates such a tax hike is because the Government needs to fill the gap as healthcare expenditures rise in the next decade due to the nation’s ageing population and the “chronic disease burden”.