Kopi with MP: Rahayu Mahzam and Henry Kwek on supporting S’pore’s senior workers 

29/09/2023

“There is a certain level of age discrimination that goes on. Let’s be frank about it; if you’re past a certain age, many seniors tell me they send out resumes, and they don’t even have a chance to be interviewed,” states PAP Seniors Group (PAPSG) MP Henry Kwek (Kebun Baru SMC) when he discusses the aspirations of Singapore’s senior citizens with fellow PAPSG MP Rahayu Mahzam (Jurong GRC). 

This discrimination, equally frankly, is not ideal. Working gives people purpose and meaning. It means social interaction for Auntie and Uncle too, whether when sharing their accumulated knowledge with co-workers, learning new skills with coursemates or having casual chats with clients or customers. In short, work brings cognitive health to seniors.  

“We need to continue to be inclusive so that the whole community can also participate in this — and will still have an equal chance to continue to be in the workforce, if they so wish,” adds MP Rahayu.     

These are observations and attitudes gained from MPs Kwek and Rahayu’s years of championing Singapore’s seniors at PAPSG, as well as from their hands-on work within their wards.  

It is only natural then, that this Kopi with MP conversation soon delves further into how Singaporeans who choose to work during their golden years should — and will — get better support.   

Raising the retirement age and reemployment age to support our seniors

The ongoing raising of the retirement and re-employment ages to 65 and 70 respectively by 2030, in fact, becomes a particularly hot topic as MPs Kwek and Rahayu continue talking about better support for seniors. 

Some in fact, might say that it is the elephant in the room.   

“When I interact with seniors, when they hear changes about retirement, reemployment age, sometimes they get away with the understanding that ‘There you go again, changing the goalposts to work longer. I can never stop and rest’,” shares MP Rahayu once more. 

“This policy of actually allowing for a longer retirement age, to encourage employees to be employed is actually beneficial for the workers and employees, because it actually makes them not cut you off,” she continues. 

Singapore’s seniors, then, have concrete legal protection with the higher retirement and re-employment age. Should you choose to work, it means that employers cannot simply decide to get rid of you and use your age as an excuse.   

“Many people feel that after retirement age, you must retire. But the reality is, anyone can work at any age of your life. The question then is, ‘At what age would you be afforded the legal protection so that you can work with a better sense of security?’,” muses MP Kwek. 

That number, with the raised (and rising) ages, is climbing ever higher, ever safer.  

Supporting seniors in the workforce 

There also is the upcoming Workplace Fairness Legislation, which makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against seniors on the basis of age

At the same time, MP Rahayu sees the need for employers to support older workers at the workplace. Teaching these seniors digital skills particularly leads to win-win payoffs, she’s found first-hand.  

This is from working with much older staff members at a small law firm. 

“My boss thought ‘We should continue supporting them’. In the course of a few years, the legal sector changed quite significantly. We had to do e-filing and the conveyancing documents searches; all that went online. And we had this particular staff who really had to advance so quickly. I remembered her feeling very stressed; ‘Oh, I don’t know how to do this!’ and all that. But she took it in stride, and she picked up all those skills,” shared MP Rahayu about the difference this employer made. 

“This is a real challenge and every senior will have different skills and aptitudes. We need to be mindful of this and support them wherever we can,” she added about workplace practices. 

So, PAPSG MPs like Kwek and Rahayu work to make sure that the Government can support diverse aspirations for Singaporean seniors — whether these seniors choose to work, spend more time with family or see the world. 

In fact, as this conversation continues, we at Petir.sg are acutely reminded that we too will age one day. 

It will be useful to have all this legal, employer and advocacy support when those years come — all the better for all of us to choose what we next want to do in life.