S Ramesh of Channel News Asia reports:

Singapore’s Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong has weighed in on a suggestion that the country’s re-employment age may need to be raised to 68 years old.

He said the idea, recently floated by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Lim Boon Heng, was not impossible to imagine.

Speaking to Channel NewsAsia, Mr Gan also commented on the latest jobs data.

Singapore’s employment figures are positive and the latest third quarter labour figures bear them out, Mr Gan said.

In particular, he noted the tight labour market situation with unemployment remaining low at 2.1 per cent.

Mr Gan said: “Many of our manufacturing industries as they restructure, will move towards higher-end manufacturing activities and business activities.

“Therefore for manufacturing, employment growth is likely to be slower as they are moving up the value chain.

“But for the services sector, it is still expanding, particularly with the two integrated resorts which brought about many new service industry jobs in restaurants and hospitality.

“That is why we are seeing many more job opportunities in this industry”.

Mr Gan said he believed this would continue in early 2011.

“For the first part of next year, it should still remain positive but there are uncertainties globally, so we have to be mindful and watch developments worldwide and be ready be prepared for changes in the global landscape,” he said.
“But what is important for now is to focus on training and upgrading and raise the skills levels of our workforce and at the same time enhance the resilience of the workforce.”

Mr Gan added there had been improvements to employment numbers of senior citizens.

But the ideal retirement age for Singaporeans has been on-going debate in the country.

On the government’s part, it is getting ready to introduce the re-employment legislation so that it can come into effect from 2012.

As a first step, re-employment age would go up from 62 to 65 years old.

Mr Gan said: “And we have said we are going to raise (the re-employment age) to 67 (years old) in the future. “Beyond that we will see how the development goes”.

Mr Gan added it was not impossible for the re-employment age to go beyond 67 years old as life span increases.

“But our focus now is to get the re-employment legislation out so that our workers and employers can have more time to prepare, and the current legislation will look at moving our re-employment to 65 (years old) and then we will look at extending to 67 later on and maybe beyond,” he said.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Lim Boon Heng said: “We are not forcing people to work but we are pointing out to people that if we are still healthy, it’s good to have more money to spend. And if you can earn more money by working, why not?”

Mr Lim did not commit on when the retirement age can up beyond 67 years old, but said consultation was on going.

Commenting on the upcoming General Elections, Mr Gan wondered if the opposition had a vision for the nation.

Last Saturday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong revealed that he had instructed that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee start work and it would be headed by the Secretary to the Cabinet.

Mr Gan said: “I would be prepared to debate with them what kind of programmes are better and who would be able to serve the residents better. And for the opposition to take control and engage us… they have to offer an alternative agenda for the nation – what kind of policies they want to put in place for Manpower, Education, Health.

“What are the alternatives they are offering and benefits they are going to bring to residents and voters?”


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