Ng Chee Meng draws flak from Singaporean workers for urging companies to raise the retirement age

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Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Ng Chee Meng has drawn flak from Singaporean workers after he urged companies to voluntarily raise the retirement age, yesterday.

Ng, who also serves as secretary-general of the labour movement, lauded Gardens by the Bay for raising the retirement age for its staff above the statutory requirement of 62 and urged other companies to follow the company’s lead.

The statutory retirement age of 62 has been enforced for the past twenty years, after it was raised from 60 to 62 in 1999. Presently, companies have to offer re-employment to eligible workers up to age 67.

Speaking at the Gardens’ signing ceremony of a memorandum of understanding in which the Gardens pledged to raise the retirement age from 2019 onwards, Ng said that the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) “fully supports this initiative by the Gardens. It is something that we hope other employers will follow.”

Gardens by the Bay – a non-profit organisation that employs 20 workers above the age of 60 – joins about 20 unionised companies that either raised the retirement age (like the Singapore American School, ComfortDelGro Group and Bukit Timah Saddle Club that raised retirement ages to 67) or do not stipulate any retirement age in employment contracts (like Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay) at all.

Explaining that a higher retirement age will allow older workers to continue earning an income, Ng added: “(Older workers) have experience and are valuable assets. Employers should value and re-employ our older workers.”

Ng further said that NTUC will support the work group that has been convened by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to address the concerns of older workers. Ng pledged that NTUC will work with MOM to develop adjustments to the re-employment terms of older workers, and confirmed that the work group will have its first meeting next week.

Despite Ng’s assurances that his call for companies to raise the retirement age is to allow older workers the ability to earn more income, his remarks have drawn criticism from locals.

Some netizens responding to the Minister’s call have lamented that older people cannot enjoy their retirement if the retirement age is raised, while others said that even if such an initiative is meant to benefit older workers, older workers are usually cast aside because younger or foreign staff typically demand lower salaries.

Still others have asked the Minister how many older workers are employed within the Government, while some middle-aged workers shared their stories of not being able to find jobs due to their climbing age: