Thinking beyond 65 is not just the Government's job.

It’s literally an age-old problem: people in rich countries are not having enough children to keep up with their own ageing.

The accelerated ageing of local populations is an issue that many governments, especially in Asia, are still grappling with. In Singapore, our population is ageing much faster than most other countries globally, with the number of Singaporeans aged 65 and above set to double by 20301.

It is imperative that the government and businesses in Singapore, a small country with limited resources, work together and adopt a proactive stance in planning ahead against this upcoming stress on its physical and social resources.

Corporates’ Responsibility to Society and Sustainability

Singapore’s government has implemented solutions to manage the problem of an ageing population, including putting in place one of the most efficient pension systems in Asia. The Central Provident Fund (CPF)’s appeal lies partly in its flexibility to complementary initiatives, evident from the diversity of complementary retirement solutions offered by the government itself, and local life insurers.

However, businesses cannot afford to consider Singapore’s ageing population as a challenge left for the government. As additional stress is placed on the national infrastructure by the ageing population, there are opportunities for the private sector to partner with the government to bridge the gap and safeguard sustainable business growth via a skilled and productive workforce.

Maintaining Health, Managing Disability

Until recently, Singaporeans that suffer from disabilities can only receive disability income payouts from the government or an insurer after losing at least two Activities of Daily Living (ADL), such as dressing, washing or feeding oneself – but not if they lose only one. This results in a gap - which we sought to address earlier this year with TM Protect 1 - as there exists a population segment experiencing the debilitating loss of one ADL and unable to receive the necessary support, placing the burden of full-time care on family members, who often stop work to become the main caregiver.

Addressing the issue of disability with increased age does not need to be product-driven. Many companies have already embarked on well-designed initiatives that encourage healthy living among employees, which will go a long way towards preventing disease. SBS Transit launched the Healthier Workers, Happier Workers programme, which focused on helping employees with chronic disease management. Through the provision of medicine and advice, employees find themselves in a better position to care for their health without compromising on the time they spend at work2.

Incentivising Longer Working Lives

The change in Singapore’s re-employment age from 65 to 67 earlier this year signals an acknowledgement that in the context of our ageing population, we need to maintain longer working lives to ensure Singapore can sustain its economic growth.

Initiatives that incentivise employees to delay their retirement need not require huge effort nor resources to implement. Singapore’s Dairy Farm encourages re-employment by sending its employees to undertake the government’s Workforce Skills Qualification training, which helps them to serve customers better and adapt to new ways of working.

By encouraging employees to extend their working lives in a meaningful fashion, companies can benefit from the experience and wisdom of these old-timers, and even help their employees preserve and strengthen their cognitive health.

The Case for Community Support  

Beyond family and the workplace, the wider community has a role to play in engaging the ageing population. With a correlation between the level of social engagement and physical mobility in seniors3, our businesses benefit from having people age with strong connections and participation in the community to support their choice to remain in the workforce.

Businesses have recently been focused on reinventing the rules to accommodate millennials, but most silver workers might find that little is being done to engage the people who have been in the company longest.  Employee engagement policies should therefore be designed to be inclusive across age. For instance, Yahoo! Singapore organises family-oriented activities like the annual Family Day, while Lawrys offers flexible work schedules for employees to participate in community events and celebrations4.

All it Takes is Empathy

Empathy is what it really boils down to. The private sector must take upon itself to recognise the importance of planning alongside governments in tackling the problems of Singapore’s ageing population. This means staying abreast of national policy and direction, as well as a constant, conscientious examination of areas where it can contribute meaningfully to Singapore’s future.

The article was published on Business Times on 18 August 2017 and The New Paper on 19 August 2017 with minor publication edits.

1 Population SG, Older Singaporeans to double by 2030. 22 Aug 2016. https://population.sg/articles/older-singaporeans-to-double-by-2030
2 Comfort Delgro Promotes Healthy Living, Breaks Exercise Record. 8 August 2016. http://www.comfortdelgro.com.sg/uploads/pr/Media%20Release%20-%20ComfortDelGro%20Promotes%20Healthy%20Living;%20Breaks%20Exercise%20Record_Group.pdf
3 Greater Good Magazine, How Social Connections Keep Seniors Healthy. 14 March 2014. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_social_connections_keep_seniors_healthy
4
The Straits Times, Restaurant commended for having age-friendly workplace. 19 May 2016. http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/manpower/restaurant-commended-for-having-age-friendly-workplace

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