“If we don’t engage older people to work and be in the community, we don’t have enough labour to sustain the economy,” shared Prof Alfred Chan of the Equal Opportunities Commission in Hong Kong, in his recent keynote address at EngAGE symposium at Temasek Polytechnic. He added that if people retire at age 60 or later at 65, which are the retirement ages in a number of developed countries, there would be less people engaged in the workforce. And to make matters worse, in 50 years’ time, there will be one person supporting a family of six rather than the current one supporting two in a family.
He added that there are many ways countries are dealing with an ageing population including increasing pension amounts but that have not been altogether smooth, particularly in the European Union where there was unrest. Governments have also looked at promoting increased fertility. “It is not for the Government to say … and for women, would you want three children as this is what it takes to replace the population?” Other options that are on the table include opening up immigration. “However in 50 years’ time, people don’t want their people to leave their countries as they will be much needed.”
Prof Chan said that there are other options to maintain the labour force such as opening up more part-time opportunities for seniors and raising the retirement age which is the most practical way. However, he said what age should we then retire? “Would you hire at 100, probably not.” He said that Governments would not stipulate the age that one should retire but leave it to companies to decide. “If the company is willing to hire and you are willing to work, the Government will support this.” He though stopped short of the idea of having no retirement age, saying: “For the employees, some may still want a definite time allowing them (lawfully) to retire, and for policy-making, employers or the Government need a ‘marker’ for their plans such as staffing, recruitment and training policies.”
Prof Chan said that we are moving towards a knowledge-based economy instead of using muscle to work, and hence, we will need to depend on knowledge and brain power, which is where someone older with experience can contribute. “Young people should understand the seniors have wisdom and knowledge, and older people need to keep learning and using technology.”