Figures released today by MOM on Singapore citizens in the labour force are extremely disturbing.
One statistic stands out above everything else. The MOM reports that "The increase in employment rate of Singapore citizens over the last decade (from 60.0% in June 2009 to 63.6% in June 2019) was driven most consistently by those aged 65 & over. This reflected efforts to raise the employability of older workers."
This is alarming. The retirement age in Singapore is 62. Yet, the increase in employment rate of Singaporeans over the last decade was driven most consistently by those aged 65 & over.
There many questions that MOM must answer:
- Why can't our elderly retire in comfort and security? Is it because they have insufficient income for retirement and therefore must continue to work to survive?
- If so, is it because their CPF savings are withheld under the Retirement Sum Scheme?
- What are our elderly Singaporeans working as? PMETs? Cleaners? Security guards? Petrol pump attendants? Grab drivers? Will the MOM give a breakdown of these numbers?
- How old are the oldest workers? Will the MOM tell us the age groups of these workers (eg 65-75, 75-85, 85 and above)?
One would have hoped that the employment rate among Singaporeans would have been driven primarily by younger workers or, at least, those before the retirement age. Is it good that an economy has the increase in the employment rate driven by those aged 65 & older over the last 10 years?
Our elderly should be relaxing, imparting wisdom and values to grandchildren and enjoying their twilight years after having worked all their lives and helped build the economy. But instead they find themselves unable to retire.
The MOM says that this finding "reflected efforts to raise the employability of older workers." Is this the case or is it because our elderly have no choice but to continue to work to survive?
MOM also reported that the number and share of PMETs among employed Singapore citizens have increased steadily from 2009 to 2019.
There are many accounts of PMETs who are underemployed. There are also those who have been retrenched and find themselves taking on jobs that they are over-qualified for like driving Grab cars. The MOM's figure does not capture the problem of underemployment among PMETs.
A comprehensive approach to our people and the economy embracing alternative voices and listening to the people of Singapore is critical.