Singapore’s MM Lee suggests no retirement age


At a dialogue session with over 900 senior managers, government officials and unionists on Wednesday, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has said that there should be no retirement age for workers.

Held in conjunction with the 30th anniversary of the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), the Minister Mentor (MM) solicited laughter from the audience when he made the bold suggestion of have no retirement age for Singapore.

The captivating dialogue was littered with MM Lee’s personal anecdotes, many of them ideas gleaned from his travels.

“You work as long as you can work and you will be healthier and happier for it. If you ask me to stop working all of a sudden, I think I’ll just shrivel up, face the wall and just that.” Said the 86-year-old who was responding to a question on the potential challenges posed to Singapore’s ageing population.

MM Lee said that the elderly should be more productive.

Employers in Singapore will have to offer workers re-employment when they hit the retirement age of 62 starting from 2012.

Older workers will also need to adjust to the psychological switch of working for less pay and probably for a younger boss.

“That’s life! You know American Generals – they don’t do well, they get fired and they give them a medal, they send a new general! I think we have to develop that approach to life. (When) you have reached the maximum you can do at your age in that position, you move sideways and you take less pay and you move gradually, (getting) less and less pay because you are moving slower and slower, especially when you’re doing physical work,” he said.

A self-confessed workaholic, MM Lee emphasised the importance of continued learning as one ages.

“Many of our workers have a preferred retirement, and then they die early! It won’t be long before the message sinks home that if you keep doing what you’re doing for almost the whole of your life, the chances are you will stay interested and engaged in life, there’s something to do tomorrow and you keep going. If you start saying,’oh! I’m old!’ And you start reading novels and playing golf or playing chess, well, you’re on the way down.”

Attracting foreign talents to Singapore was another sizzling topic on the table at the dialogue session.

MM Lee said foreign talents who come to Singapore because of the opportunities it offers would add to a growing “intellectual class”.”We are going to have an intellectual class, about maybe three times as big as what you have now and that will give us the
dynamism, the powerful engine to carry us forward faster,” said MM Lee.

MM Lee also said that Singapore’s attraction, as a liveable and safe city with good infrastructure, would enhance its productivity.