THERE’S no denying the fact that more senior citizens are working today than five years ago. In fact, it seems to be a growing trend.
According to the Malaysian Labour Force Survey Report:
In 2011, there was a total of 882,700 seniors between the ages of 55 and 64 who were employed.
In 2013, this number rose to 1.08 million.
In 2010, the labour force participation ratio for those aged 55-64 was 43.4%. In 2011, this ratio was 45.3%. In 2012, it was 48.9% and in 2013, 51.5%.
That is an increase of 8.1 percentage points in just three years.
According to Prof Tengku Aizan Hamid, director of the Institute of Gerontology at Universiti Putra Malaysia, there are two distinct groups of seniors who work after the retirement age – those who need to work and those who don’t need to.
Some do so to kill the boredom, others because they need the money as they are still supporting their children.
She says it’s not totally because of a lack of retirement funds.
“It depends on where they are coming from. For those in the formal sector, when they retire, if they have dependent children, they might have to work.
“So, it depends on the situation, but it is a growing trend.
“There are a few reasons why they work – to fill up the time, for the money; most of them would say for the money,” says Tengku Aizan, admitting it is not easy for senior citizens to find re-employment.
“If you look at the labour force survey, many of these seniors are in the informal sector, basically self-employed, and also in the agriculture sector,” says Tengku Aizan.
Jariah Masud, research fellow at the Institute of Gerontology, says that according to the national household income survey, there are parents who are still supporting older adult children.
Then there are some who form the sandwich generation, finding themselves working to support their own elderly parents as well as their adult children.
Jariah and Tengku Aizan say that the growing trend of seniors returning to the workforce does not have much impact on the younger generation seeking employment as the two groups do not compete for the same jobs.
“The seniors still have to survive and work. They have to retire because of the retirement age, then seek re-employment. A majority of them are self-employed and working in agriculture, which is easy to get and has low pay.
“It’s an easy re-entry into the workforce. We don’t have a registry for skilled workers and professionals, so it is easier for them to go into agriculture or be self-employed,” explains Jariah.
Tengku Aizan and Jariah lament the fact that all job vacancy advertisements are for the young, those under 35. As there seems to be discrimination against age, the retirees usually have no choice but to be self-employed and that’s why some of them go into business.
The danger here, they say, is that some retirees may invest all their retirement savings into a business venture.
“There is no guarantee in business. That’s why quite a number say their friends went into business and lost all their savings. Normally, we advise retirees not to invest a lot, don’t take a loan and don’t use your EPF money because it is very risky,” says Jariah.
Prof Tengku Aizan says working is definitely beneficial in terms of helping them keep active.
She says that the risks are there and that the seniors just have to read the terms and conditions of the contract carefully.
The negotiated agreement is the only thing that will protect them. Even the Employment Act is very basic – the number of hours, what you should give, days of leave, etc.
The Employment Act does not have any provisions to protect senior workers. However, Tengku Aizan believes that the new Minimum Wages Policy would offer some protection so that seniors are not taken advantage of.
“From our experience, many of the seniors who work, don’t want to work from 9-5, they want to work perhaps 2-3 hours a day, and maybe 3 days a week. They don’t want to have a full-time job,” she says.
With the number of senior citizens over 65 years old projected to increase to 4.4 million by the year 2021, you can expect more seniors to rejoin the workforce over the next few years.
Hopefully the job advertisements and companies hiring will then be less biased against older job applicants.