Singapore’s retirement age

” Singapore does not have compulsory retirement but has a retirement age, like many other countries. The retirement age in Singapore is 62, though the re-employment age will rise from 65 to 67 next year. Workers turning 62 can opt to retire or continue working until the re-employment age ceiling.”

Singapore’s retirement age has to go “at some point”, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at a dialogue at the World Cities Summit yesterday.

It is critical that older workers be seen as assets to be continually invested in, rather than just as add- ons needed because employers cannot find younger workers in a tight labour market, he said.

Mr Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, was speaking at the opening session of the World Cities Summit at Marina Bay Sands.

He outlined key challenges faced by growing cities, such as ageing societies, at the discussion, Towards A Liveable, Sustainable And Resilient Future.

“Older folks are an asset. They have wisdom, experience and they also learn on the job. We have to make this (integrating older workers) part and parcel of the workplace… We have not done it very well in Singapore so far and we have to do much better in this realm,” he said.

His comments were in response to a question by Ambassador-at- large Tommy Koh, who moderated the dialogue between Mr Tharman and the audience of academics, policymakers and industry leaders from across the globe.

Professor Koh asked Mr Tharman if the Singapore Government could abolish compulsory retirement.

“I am 78 years old, I am working full-time and I think many older Singaporeans are like me. They don’t dream of playing golf or lying on a beach. We want to continue to work and contribute to society,” said Prof Koh.

Mr Tharman said Singapore does not have compulsory retirement but has a retirement age, like many other societies. “At some point, this (retirement age) has to go,” he said, adding that older people are assets and they can keep learning even in their 50s or 60s as their brains continue to adapt.

The retirement age in Singapore is 62, though the re-employment age will rise from 65 to 67 next year. Workers turning 62 can opt to retire or continue working until the re-employment age ceiling.

In Parliament this year, Ms Jessica Tan, an MP for East Coast GRC, asked why the Manpower Ministry did not remove the retirement age.

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said doing so could actually be worse for workers as it means that companies can terminate their employees’ services earlier.

The other challenge that comes with an ageing population, said Mr Tharman, is healthcare, which has to be humane, affordable and convenient for people.

For instance, studies abroad have shown that less than 20 per cent of the time a person spends visiting a clinic or hospital is spent seeing the doctor, said Mr Tharman. The rest of the time is spent on travelling, queueing and waiting, and this is especially inconvenient for an older person with disability.

Telemedicine then, said Mr Tharman, is a huge opportunity for cities to tap so that seniors at home have peace of mind, knowing they have a nurse or doctor to get advice from.

In closing, Mr Tharman said innovation is going to be a source of inclusivity. “It is not a contradiction to say that we want a highly innovative society and open society as well as an inclusive society.”

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Inter-American Court Confirms Workers’ Right to Union Representation

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A key decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has re-affirmed that the rights of trade unions are protected in the Inter-American System, issuing an Advisory Opinion in response to a case brought by the Government of Panama in 2014.

In its amicus brief and oral testimony to the Court, the ITUC, supported by its regional organization TUCA, argued that freedom of association under the American Convention on Human Rights, should include not only the protection of individual workers but also their trade unions as organisations. The Court agreed, affirming the importance of unions as indispensable to defend the rights of workers, embedding protection under Article 8 of the Protocol to the American Convention for workers seeking justice from employers and governments.

The majority of the Court ruled in favour of the ITUC’s position, despite submissions from Argentina, Colombia and Guatemala, which would have deprived workers of this protection. The ITUC also argued that corporations do not have “legal person” standing, and the Court again accepted the ITUC’s arguments on this issue. Had the decision gone the other way, unions would not be able to challenge interference in or limitations to their activities, including the right to federate and confederate, or join international organisations, nor have standing to bring those claims.

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said “This ruling is crucial in the Americas, with the highest human rights authority in the region re-affirming the importance of the role of trade unions at a time when workers’ human rights are under sustained attack in many countries. For many people, particularly in Central America, the right to union representation is a matter of life and death. It is a welcome sign that when so many employers in the Americas fail to respect the ILO, the eminent jurists of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have stood firm. Regional bodies such as this have an important role to play and we will continue our work to secure the respect for ILO standards at the regional level as well as through national legal processes and through UN and other global bodies.”

“The future of work is not determined by technology, we can shape it!”

ILO Director General , Guy Ryder

Opening a conference on “Shaping the new world of work – the impacts of digitalisation and robotisation” organized by The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), ILO Director-General Guy Ryder discussed some of the major drivers of change, and their impact on the world of work. 

“The future of work is not determined by technology or by any other circumstance,” he said, “it is fundamentally going to be the result of what we, the actors of the world of work, decide to make it.” The major global drivers of change, such as technology but also demography, climate change and the greening of our economy, present both opportunities and challenges to which the policy response should promote social justice principles.

The Director-General underlined the social function of work, often ignored, but yet vital. “Today, there is too much unemployment and inequality, and we need to challenge some of the basic fundamentals of current labour market policy,” he concluded.