To the Knacker’s We Go

Since Singaporeans are really not supposed to ever retire, Molly should set a good example by not retiring from blogging. So let us consider the issue of retirement.

“We are raising the retirement age, through the process of re-employment from the current 62 to 65 in January 2012. Beyond that we would have to examine how we can further raise the retirement age. In Finland, they have raised it to 68, so it gives us an indication about where we should be heading.Because the Finns are not living longer than us, we have a life expectancy of about 80, I think the finns [sic] are little less than us.” (Mr. Lim Boon Heng, CNA)

The comparison with Finland should be of interest to us, but let us first look at Singapore as it is. Despite the rhetoric about active aging, productivity and longer life expectancies, the most important and, in fact, only real reason to raise the retirement age in Singapore is that most people are just not going to have money to survive on for the rest of their lives if they retire at 62. And we should be clear that not everyone is really retiring at the age of 62 even now. There are already people who have no choice but to work indefinitely beyond 62. In other words, we are not foreseeing a future problem but anticipating an exacerbated version of a current problem.

Certainly, there are good reasons to work beyond the retirement age if it is not a matter of sheer necessity and even if it is a matter of necessity, many people do not mind working beyond the age of 62 in order to support themselves. But employment itself is a problem. Few things are more disturbing than to be “reassured” by government officials that we may continue to be employed after the official retirement age under different terms—a change in job scope and a change in remuneration. For the average person, It simply means that he is going to enslaved to a job that offers little job security. He is enslaved and insecure because as he ages, he had better do all that he can to keep his job, lest he loses his job and the promised re-employment. And with the law making it mandatory for employers to offer re-employment beyond the age of 62, would employers not be more reluctant than ever to employ older workers given the prospects of having to comply with the law by offering these workers re-employment after they turn 62?

The problems highlighted above are real and valid worries, but they hardly touch the heart of the matter. The average Singaporean—and obviously our policymakers are not average Singaporeans given that that our ministers earn enough in one year to afford a decent retirement whereas I can only pray that I would be able to slog away in resigned bitter despair till the day I die—only has his labor to protect him from total helplessness. And it is also what makes him helpless. The same Singaporean who is disadvantaged in terms of employment prospects because of National Service liabilities, who is no match for those who can survive on the lowest wages imaginable, who is not protected by a minimum wage in a country that has third world wage structures is also the Singaporean who faces ever-rising costs of living (which the government sometimes market as ever-improving standards of living) and is ordered to be cheaper, better, faster while clocking the most number of working hours in the world. This is same Singaporean who is also supposed to be kind and nationalistic, speak good English, and vote the PAP into power election after election (which they, disappointingly, will). The average Singaporean is supposed to make merry in misery and be grateful for being able to stay alive by suffering.

Singapore wants me to always be an abject beggar-slave chimera. I have to be a pathetic monster that begs for exploitation because being exploited is my only means of survival. Given that we want to compare with the Finns, perhaps this characterizes the Finns too. Or perhaps we are really much better off.

Finland is not a model that the PAP government of Singapore looks up to as it seems rather fond of the idea of welfare, which is an abomination to the rational PAP. Perhaps we ought to take a look at Finland’s social security system and see how much better off Singaporeans are compared to the Finns.

If Singaporeans want to retire, they should first retire a particular group of expired politicians who are exceptionally talented in marketing asphyxiation to the masses. But we know Singaporeans are good, diligent people like Orwell’s Boxer and we should not expect a Boxer’s Rebellion.

Retirement is not part of the lexicon of Standard English and we should stop using the word.

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