There should be no retirement age: MM Lee
By Imelda Saad | Posted: 28 July 2010 2230 hrs


There should be no retirement age: MM Lee

SINGAPORE: Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has said that there should be no retirement age for workers.
He made the point at a dialogue session with over 900 senior managers, government officials and unionists on Wednesday.
The session was held in conjunction with the 30th anniversary of the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF).
Minister Mentor Lee got the audience in stitches when he made the bold suggestion - no retirement age for Singapore.
He said: "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."
The 86-year-old said old people should be more productive.
Mr Lee was responding to a question on challenges Singapore may face with an aging population.
He said that at his age, he may have aches and pains but he can keep going.
He said: "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."
From 2012, employers in Singapore will have to offer workers re-employment when they hit the retirement age of 62.
Mr Lee said older workers will need to come to terms with the psychological switch - that is, working for less pay and very likely for a younger boss.
He said: "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."
Mr Lee stressed the need to continue learning even as one gets older, adding "I'm still learning."
Attracting talents was another hot topic at the dialogue session. Mr Lee said foreign talents come to Singapore because of the opportunities it offers.
Their numbers will add to what Mr Lee called a growing "intellectual class".
Mr Lee said: "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."
Mr Lee added that Singapore's attraction as a liveable, safe city with good infrastructure will support its push to enhance productivity.
The 45-minute dialogue was engaging and peppered with personal anecdotes. For example, Mr Lee shared how many of his ideas were gleaned from his travels.
He noted how a lot of policies in Singapore were the result of his experiences overseas. For example, deciding on having an underground train system over a network of tunnels for buses.
- CNA/ir

I wonder how people will read this. 
They probably were having butterflies fluttering in their stomachs, when MM Lee suggested that there should be no retirement age. For most people work is a dreadful course of life where one has to escape the clutches of their bosses and perhaps their colleagues. Many would tell you that they have to deal with different kinds of problems daily to make their businesses work; that they'd wish they could just strike the lottery somehow and go into early retirement.At least for many, they would wish they could make a lot of money when they are young, and retire as soon as they hit their targets. 

I also did some snoopying around online, reading various comments from many sources with regards to the above post. I suspect this would not be stomached in  very well.  It really depends on individual's situation: For people who love their work, their work are their lives. Not working at all could mean the end of their lifelong careers & also their health*. He cited a Chinese proverb: ' 活到老,学到老' [ huo dao lao, xue dao lao] meaning that as long as one lives, one should embrace learning throughout their lives. His notion wasn't wrong at all. It is true that when one stops working, their health deteriorates. And often people don't live that long after they retire - they usually kick the bucket soon or their health takes a nose dive. These are true facts. But I think for a large majority, many of whom are not making a 6 figure income, the idea of continue-working is a pain, especially when they also need to struggle to make ends meet. This is also a true fact as costs are rising and pressure mounting from all facets of life for the commoner. Also especially true are those whose careers are not exactly what they would have liked to do. So this idea of working for life is going to hang them right in there. Hence this notion isn't really palatable. In fact, it would be almost unthinkable to them.

The intellectual class idea of taking in a lot of both China's and India's youngsters into our educational system could act as a double edged sword. Why? In theory, when we focus on taking the bright Chinese and Indians in, they should add to our intellectual pool. That is only possible if they will stay in the country. It would not be true, if they 'jump ship' elsewhere. Malaysians who flocked to Singapore also contributed to a lot of added talent. The talent pool is unrestricted to just from China and India though the possibility of getting a top talent from a larger population is higher.
I can see what MM Lee's point of view. But I also know from a great pool of the common public and others, that this might not mean well. People may not welcome foreign competition, especially true if it has a threat / is being perceived as taking the local's opportunities away. 

We have a lot of local talent who are located abroad. I think they are valued elsewhere as fine talents whose billingualism and discipline are very well taken in. I know a lot of them are not willing to return as they have formed close ties there. So a small population may not exactly mean a limited talent pool. It could well question on our abilities to retain good and very able people to stay or at least return more frequently to contribute to our intellectual class here. If we need to progressively move on to create a large healthy intellectual pool, taking in foreigners is a must given if they will stay here and not elsewhere. Their loyalty must be towards the new country that spends time and effort to groom them by offering opportunities that make them whom they are now.

I often like to study MM Lee's policies and his ideas. Regardless of his many controversial ideas, he really shows his intelligence. Despite many negative feedbacks on certain forums, he is  recognized worldwide as an Asian giant, whose mind doesn't framed around with just one context & is often able to solve any problem very effectively. Many come to oppose his ideas, yet many also applauded his ideas. A very interesting person to study when it comes to reading his mind/ideas. 

Also is the fact that a tiny country usually faces several challenges when it comes to growing a sizable intellectual pool. It is far harder to keep talent compared with other much larger countries where living quality / unique opportunities are the same or better than us.
Although I cannot agree with all his ideas, I must admit that his brains are some of the finest and his credibility belongs to one of the highest - when he means something, he does it in full force and usually excels in it.
  1. http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/planning-to-retire/2009/10/16/study-delay...
  2. http://www.nhs.uk/news/2009/10October/Pages/Health-after-retirement.aspx
  3. http://ftp.iza.org/dp4253.pdf

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