Social Policy in an Ageing Society

Social Policy in an Ageing Society

Age and Health in Singapore

David Reisman

Around half the world’s population live in countries where the fertility rate is far below the replacement rate and where life expectancy is increasing dramatically. Using Singapore as a case study, Social Policy in an Ageing Society explores what might happen in a dynamic and prosperous society when falling births, longer life expectancy and rising expectations put disproportionate pressure on scarce resources that have alternative uses.

Chapter 10: Older Workers: The Policy Options

David Reisman

Subjects: asian studies, asian economics, asian politics and policy, asian social policy, economics and finance, asian economics, health policy and economics, public sector economics, politics and public policy, asian politics, social policy and sociology, ageing, comparative social policy, economics of social policy, health policy and economics


The previous chapter presented the evidence. The present chapter assesses what can be done. It identifies seven policy instruments that can be mobilised by a proactive Government in order to make good use of the underutilised old. The retirement age can be raised. The withdrawal of the Minimum Sum can be delayed. Training and retraining can upgrade the human capital. Pay cuts can price the marginal into work. Technology and working practices can make it cost-effective to keep on the older workers. Income supplementation and compulsory reemployment can contribute to recruitment and retention. Tolerant meritocracy can take the place of stereotyping and prejudice. A nation with a low rate of natural increase must not assume that foreign talent is the only talent around. The chapter concludes that there is no single recommendation that will inevitably bend the labour market to the national interest. Sometimes the policy-makers will have to reshape laissez-faire in order to reverse a private shortfall. Sometimes the policy-makers will have to trust to the invisible hand to reopen a lode-bearing seam. Political economy is a movable feast. Time and place will decide. 10.1 THE RETIREMENT AGE The idea that there is a single fixed date on which the productive life grinds to a halt is a relatively new one. It is not natural but man-made. In most of human history old people simply continued to work until they were too weak and helpless to carry on. In the new administrative culture, things are different. The turning-points are...

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