Three lessons from the past

TO COAX firms into re-hiring older workers beyond 65 from next year, the Government has come up with a tried-and-tested plan. It has drawn extensively from its experience extending the retirement age from 60 to 62 in 1999, and in 2012, when a new law made it mandatory for firms to offer re-employment to staff who have reached 62.

There are three similarities.

1 Ample notice

First, the Government gave ample notice. When it raised the retirement age from 55 to 60 in 1993, it made it plain that the retirement age would be raised to 67 in seven to 10 years.

The retirement age saw the next jump - from 60 to 62 - six years later, in 1999.

The notice period for the next jump, from age 62 to 65, was more than five years.

Both former Cabinet Minister Lim Boon Heng, who was the labour chief, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced as far back as in 2007 that the law would be changed by 2012 to require firms to re-hire workers until 65.

In the same vein, Mr Lee said at the May Day Rally this year that the re-employment age will eventually be raised beyond 65.

2 Taking the lead

Second, the Government took the lead as Singapore's largest employer.

In July 2011, six months before the re-employment of workers to age 65 kicked in in January 2012, the public service started re-hiring staff who reached the retirement age of 62, until 65.

It set the example as Singapore's largest employer with 124,000 officers.

The public sector is doing the same next year. It announced last month that it will offer eligible public servants re-employment after they turn 65, up to the age of 67.

3 Working with unions

Third, unions worked tirelessly to coax unionised firms to re-hire older workers, even before the law came into effect. In August 2010, more than a year before the re-employment law took effect, unions were reporting that nearly 960 out of 1,000 unionised firms had committed to offering re-employment of workers up to the age of 65.

Last month, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) pledged that it will get 500 unionised firms to voluntarily re-hire workers past the age of 65 by the end of next year.

NTUC deputy secretary-general Heng Chee How said that unions are confident of hitting the target.

This article was first published on Nov 8, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.