Photo of elderly with Lee Hsien Loong taken at Toa Payoh from States Times Review

Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan yesterday (July 29) told state media CNA that old people in Singapore have nothing to do for retirement and so they choose to work.

“Some of the older workers may not want to spend the next 20 or 30 years in retirement doing nothing. They want to look for opportunities to continue working.”

The manpower minister was praising his new Re-employment Scheme that raises retirement age to 67 years old. Minister Sam Tan said that there are hardly any complaints against employers firing elderly workers.

However, Minister Sam Tan did not mention the low income and strenuousness of the work Singapore elderly are working in. Most elderly in Singapore work manual labour like coffeeshop cleaners or janitors, earning the legislated minimal income of S$1,100.

Most have to stand for 8 hours a day and there has been reports of elderly dying in their workplace due to exhaustion. In July 2016, an elderly cleaner sat down for a 5 minute rest and passed away sitting at the coffeeshop table where he was still on working shift. A similar tragedy happened in 2012, where an 80-year-old elderly janitor died while cleaning a toilet cubicle. Elderly workers are also prone to death for accidents like a slip.

According to a 2015 survey published by an academic from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) and reproduced today by state media ChannelNewsAsia (CNA), the poverty rate for working elderly jumped from 13% in 1995 to 41% in 2011. The LKYSPP then stopped publishing the survey about poverty with no statistic revealed between 2012 and the years after. In April 2017, the Ministry of Social and Family Affairs (MSF) revealed that elderly above the aged of 60 relying on welfare assistance jumped 74.32% in the three years between 2012 and 2015.