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Re-employment till 67: Public service makes it official

Currently, about 1,000 public officers already re-hired beyond age of 65

[SINGAPORE] From next year, the Singapore Public Service - which employs almost 140,000 people - will offer all eligible staff re-employment beyond the age of 65.

Beginning Jan 1, 2015, it will formalise arrangements to offer re-employment to all eligible officers till the age of 67. This will immediately benefit some 800 public officers turning 65 next year.

Public officers are currently re-employed up to age 65 when they reach the statutory retirement age of 62. The public service guidelines on re-employment take reference from the Tripartite Advisory on re-employment.

The guidelines state that eligible officers who wish to continue working can do so on the same job with the same pay and benefits, provided the job is available. Otherwise, agencies will help the officers to find suitable jobs within or outside their agency. If no jobs are available, agencies will offer a payment to help them make the adjustment while they look for another job.

Before Thursday's announcement, public agencies are already voluntarily re-employing officers beyond the age of 65, if the officers wish to continue working and they can contribute to the work of the agencies. There are about 1,000 public officers re-employed beyond age 65 today.

"Re-employment allows the public service to continue tapping our seniors' wealth of knowledge and experience. It also allows our older colleagues to remain meaningfully engaged," James Wong, deputy secretary (policy) at the Public Service Division (PSD) in the Prime Minister's Office, said.

"In the Public Service Division, I am glad to work alongside several of our re-employed colleagues who, in addition to contributing to our work, also help to mentor and coach our younger officers."

The decision was taken by PSD after it studied the recommendations made by the Tripartite Committee on Employability of Older Workers on extending the re-employment age.

As one of the largest employers in Singapore, the Public Service decided to take the lead on this decision, which it took in consultation with the ministries, statutory boards and public sector unions.

Pan Zaixian, general manager of headhunting firm Kerry Consulting, said: "Many MNCs come from countries that have already increased their retirement age, and with possible financial incentives from the government, they will probably be the first to adopt this (in Singapore also)."

But observers say not every private sector employer may readily adopt the changes.

"In comparison, private sector Singaporean companies may take longer to assimilate this."

According to Mr Pan, the receptiveness of private sector employers to the re-employment age extension also varies across different industries.

"Different industries have their own age demographics. Banking, technology and consumer industries generally have younger working populations compared to those from the industrial and resources sectors. I do not expect this to change."

Mr Pan also noted that if the age extension to 67 is not implemented as part of the Retirement and ReEmployment Act, older employees could possibly gravitate to companies that voluntarily practises it.

Even members of the workforce may have difficulty in completely welcoming these changes. Mr Pan cited the example of companies with a seniority-based advancement culture. Younger staff would see the retirement extension as raising the glass ceiling for them. "Will an employee in his/her 50s feel that the glass ceiling for career progression (has been) extended?"