SINGAPORE: More than 50 companies have voluntarily raised the retirement or re-employment ages of their workers beyond the statutory requirements, said NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng on Thursday (Aug 15).
He has been urging employers here to do so and this is a “pretty decent” response, said the labour chief in an interview with CNA938, adding that workers have also been “very appreciative of these moves”.
NTUC said in July about 20 unionised companies had either raised the retirement age or did not stipulate a retirement age for its workers. These companies include the Gardens by the Bay, Novotel Clarke Quay Singapore and ComfortDelGro Group.
Mr Ng’s call to employers comes as a tripartite workgroup has been studying how far and how fast the retirement and re-employment ages should be raised beyond 62 and 67 respectively.
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said in March that representatives from the Government, employers and unions had reached a consensus on the need to raise the two ages. Set up last May, the workgroup has been looking at this issue and the impact of Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution rates on retirement adequacy of older workers, among other things.
An update will be announced by September, Mrs Teo has said.
Nevertheless, Mr Ng, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, admitted that there has been some resistance from employers, with worries mainly surrounding costs.
Apart from wages, these costs can include the healthcare needs of older workers, such as insurance and medical leave.
Given how businesses are grappling with uncertainties in the external environment, on top of domestic cost pressures, these are “valid considerations”.
“I think they are not unfair in stating those concerns,” he said.
“We will have to sit down, put our concerns and challenges on the table, and really think through these issues as tripartite partners.”
Productivity and the relevance of skillsets among older workers will be key for employers.
Citing his conversations with some companies, Mr Ng said: “Most of my employers are fair people – I pay you X amount, you deliver that X amount of productivity and I won’t look at your age.”
To that, he stressed that workers will have to play their part as well.
“We got to stay up to date with relevant skills (and) with added skills, hopefully, so that we can be productive. Age will not really be that much of a factor if you are skilful and you keep healthy.”
Asked if the NTUC is also pushing for the restoration of CPF contribution rates for workers above 55 years old, Mr Ng replied: “We have been doing that for quite a while. We think this is a good re-think of our CPF … on how to plan for adequacy of retirement and so forth, I think it is a necessary thing to do.”
A recent report by the Institute of Policy Studies has called for the CPF contribution rates for older workers to be restored to the same levels as that of younger workers. If done so, it could help them save between S$31,000 and S$145,000 more by the time they retire, researchers said.
Currently, the overall CPF contribution rate is 37 per cent for workers up to 55 years old.
It drops progressively to 26 per cent for workers aged 55 to 60, 16.5 per cent for those aged 60 to 65, and 12.5 per cent for those above 65.
When asked if such an increase is possible or if a middle ground could be reached, Mr Ng said that CPF contribution rates are a “sub-topic” for the tripartite work group and a formal report can be expected “sometime soon”.
READ: Coffee for 50 cents, company training committees among labour movement’s efforts to help workers
During the interview, Mr Ng was also asked about how the labour movement is helping companies and workers to cope with technological disruptions.
He said NTUC has been working with companies to set up training committees – a move that helps to “institutionalise the training aspects for the benefit of companies and workers”.
Mr Ng added that there are still companies that may not know what technology to deploy for their problems, neither do they know where to get these technology or how to start using them.
Among workers, the fear remains that technology will displace and take away jobs.
“Shifting their mindset is important,” said the labour chief.
Among its objectives, the training committees will help companies and workers to start looking at technology “as a friend and an enabler”.
NTUC has previously announced a target of 1,000 committees to be formed across all six industry transformation map groups over the next three years. This is set to benefit about 330,000 workers.
Watch the full interview: