Q & A: Increasing the maximum employment age in the workplace



There has been an increase in the maximum employment age in some countries. What are your thoughts on this?

Work takes up a large part of our lives, and it gives us the satisfaction of contributing our skills and experiences to society. The older the workers, the more experiences they can share. Furthermore, it is important that regardless of our age, we need to get our bodies moving so that we stay fit to enjoy our quality of life. I feel that these two factors are benefits of work.

I believe that most of us aspire to work as it gives us something to look forward to. Colleagues to chat with. The satisfaction of working towards something. The joy of working in teams. The fulfillment of a hard day’s work. I feel that these are what makes work fulfilling.

You sure have a way of making work look rosy. If this is the case, why are there many unsatisfied employees in the workplace? 

[Laughs] Yes, I do see the positive sides of work. But please do not use the word “rosy” on me. I am both a pragmatist and a realist. And I see reality as it is. I am merely stating the positives to get people hyped up about work because if managed properly, it is one of the primary sources of happiness.

But life is never that simple, is it?

(Laughs) So, what is not so good about work? I have been waiting for your insights on this a long time.

I figure the older you get, the more some of us may come to  dread work due to various factors.  Now, even the young gets tired of work. There are various reasons for this. Most would say that “yeah, they are Gen Ys, so they are rebellious against authority figures, abhor rules and regulations, obsessed with social media rather than work and most significantly, some of them have delusions of grandeur, always wanting to start a business of their own.”

Now, just look at some possible responses from Gen Y themselves:

About rebelling against authority figures:

“We just want to live life our own way. if it doesn’t hurt anybody, why can’t we? Why should we be told to do this and that by our boss in the company? It doesn’t make sense. We create our own destiny. We make our own luck. Furthermore, why should we engage in groupthink and follow someone else’s direction? We want autonomy. We want to be trailblazers, not followers. “

Apparently, the company vision and values often do not gel with Gen Ys. They don’t work for a company. They work for themselves. That’s individualism, not defiance. And they are definitely not rebellious as once they realise their values are not aligned with the organisations they work in, they usually leave.

About detesting rules and regulations:

“We just want work-life balance. That’s what make us adverse to working with the old guards in the company. They love rules and feel that we are obligated to abide by them. Well, we don’t. We prefer to spend time with our families. We also want to spend time with our friends and ourselves.These are priorities. We are sorry if our priorities are different from others, but we make our stand.”

So, it’s life balance that they want, not so much the constant battling against rules and regulations. They do not see the benefits of working longer hours just to please the boss or working unproductively under lethargic conditions.

“Few companies understand that clocking the number of required hours doesn’t mean that everyone will be productive since our energy sapped over time.  And the younger workers are getting tired of exchanging time for money – unlike the older generations.”

About their obsession with social media:

“Obsessed with social media? That sounds wrong! Social media is our life! We chat on WhatsApp. We don’t do emails. We want instant response – in real time. We get news from Facebook posts, not mainstream papers. Most of us do not blog now. We are visual people, and we are used to watching videos rather than reading.”

About delusions of grandeur of starting a great business:

Delusions? That’s our dream! We want to start something we are passionate about. A company’s vision and mission statement? That’s other people’s dreams. We want to chase ours! What’s wrong with starting a F&B if I can afford it? A few of us can get together and we can get things moving. We have seen many of our parents working their entire lives for a single employer but that’s not what we want to do. Nor is it going to happen for us now., as there’s no single lifetime employment guarantees now, is there? So, if there’s no job security, why not take a risk and start a business? You get your own time, and earn your own keeps! Yeah, we might fail. But then again, we might succeed.”

So, that’s how it works for them (laughs). Would you think that under such a..well, what they considered “stifled working environment”, the young would want to work a single, longer day in a company they are unsuited for, not to mention into their old age?

[Laughs] That’s interesting! I am sure some of the older folks will disagree with them but that’s for another story. Anyway, let talk about the older workers. You are not avoiding my questions, are you?

Of course not (laughs). Why would I?

For the older folks, the reason why they are working is not because they are loving it. Well, some of them might but for those who don’t, the primary reason is usually because of fatigue. Our body energy level will drop over time as we age and this is inevitable. Most employers understand these, hence while they are usually attuned to hiring older workers, they also understand that these older workers are unsuited for certain strenuous job positions. But the sad reality is that much as the older workers are given suitable positions, they are working longer hours. Even if the hours stay the same, their energy levels are not.

“Consider food court or hawker centre dish collectors. They usually walk around for continuous periods of time and this tires them out easily. So, do you think they enjoy working in old age? They don’t work out of passion. They work out of necessity. Because they need money to survive. There are cases whereby these older workers are eating leftover food left behind by patrons just to save money.”

So, monetary concern is an issue for older workers, especially for the uneducated. So, it’s not about getting rich anymore. It’s about survival. 

Yes, in fact, their concerns are usually already being addressed through public policies.

However,  there’s still the aspiration that  as one ages, one wants to enjoy one’s life. But if work now takes a priority over leisure in their golden years, they have less time to spend with their spouses and grandchildren (if they have any). They experience high fatigue level due to work, and there’s always the monetary concern that couldn’t put their mind at ease.

“To worry about money in one’s younger days will usually aspire one to greater heights but to be concerned about money in one’s later years is a different story altogether.”

So, fewer people will aspire to work in their later years?

(Laugh) What do you think?

Time will tell.

(Laugh) All right, all right. 

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