Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Employing the "Elderly"

There is a debate going on in Singapore about what to do with all the old people now that citizens aren't dying conveniently on schedule within a year of the official retirement age. In Singapore, the retirement age is only 62, so with life expectancies going up, the need to continue to earn an income is a pressing issue for many people.

Suggestions have been made to reserve jobs for old people.


Is it fear of one's own mortality that causes people to have dumb ideas? I was moved to write to the paper...

My letter to the Business Times:

Business Times - 02 Feb 2005
Tackle retirement by tempering expectations
I REFER to the article, 'Not yet time to retire' (BT, Jan 31).

Treating those of a particular age as if they belong to a single homogenous group is at best confusing. A complex modern society is composed of many different people with widely varying skills, education, and work experience. Why is it that as soon as someone becomes 'old', all his other attributes are forgotten and he becomes a nameless member of an amorphous group united only by their age?

Are we really to believe that two individuals, one a CEO and the other a clerical worker, are the same because they are 'old'? The problem of employment equity and opportunity is not one of age: it is one of expectations and compensation. As other correspondents have mentioned, a seniority based compensation system is going to price the older worker - whether blue collar or white - out of his job eventually. What really needs to be addressed is the assumption on the part of the employee and employer that earnings should only go in one direction over a career - up.

In today's society, it is close to impossible to suggest that pay for performance or pay for value be applied across the board. It is somehow embarrassing for both the employer and the employee to suggest that someone take a wage cut and not see it as a demotion or penalty. It is easier to just fire the older employee and replace them with someone younger and cheaper. Both parties need to come to a more mature understanding, and realise that with life expectancies reaching into one's eighties, retirement at a fixed age is no longer needed or welcome.

Waleed Hanafi
Copyright © 2004 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.

The link is here, but it goes away quickly.

No comments: