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I am not really sure about the merit of the proposal to extend the retirement age of workers in both the public and private sectors to 60-64. Many of the people who are pro-extension talk of how healthy most workers are at the age of 55-58, the age of compulsory retirement currently in both sectors. They also talk about the rising life-span in Malaysia now reaching towards 75 and so the workers, if they lived that long, need to continue working otherwise they have nothing productive to do.

Some are also saying about not letting foreigners work in the private sector. Well, if the foreigner is really good, able to bring in more money to the private sector, who, in their right mind would want to employ a local who is not as skilled? Look at the managers of five-star hotels and some MNCs, who do you see? Comparison is also made with countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Singapore and other developed countries that have extended their workers’ retirement age past 60 to 65 and even 67.

I can understand the sentiment of those who have special skills like the professionals or other k-workers who feel that they can still contribute and use their experience to improve or maintain productivity. Yes, skilled workers are valuable and they should be extended past 60. So are the exceptional management staff in the private sectors. As the engine of growth, we need talents and experience in the private sector.

The comparison with those developed countries is not totally valid. If you look at the staffing in their private and public organisation, you will notice that they do not have a large base of low skilled workers such as general workers, drivers,office boys,telephone operators etcetera. All of these works are outsourced or the staff have to do themselves. So there is virtually no extension for such personnel. In Malaysia, we have a larger proportion of low skilled government workers whose extension will definitely deprive many trainable young people who have no chance and neither the inclination to further their studies in institutions of higher learning.

Another important feature of such countries with higher retirement age is the fact that the proportion of their young people entering the workforce is increasingly smaller due to declining birth rates, unlike Malaysia. Every year we have nearly 400,000 to 450,000 students leaving schools. A small proportion will study in universities while others will be looking at jobs requiring lower entry qualifications. And where are these young people going to go and what are they going to do if they are not timely absorbed into the workforce?

At least those retiring at the current 58 in the public sector will have their pension to rely on ( I can hear people saying that some of these workers have children still studying because they marry late, but how many of such workers are there?) I would think that many jobless young people are at a higher risk of creating social problems in this country or any country for that matter. Unless the government can create more jobs, ( not really a good solution), I am worried at the prospects of having frustrated youths rather than retired public servants with no particular skill except for being long in service.

Be Happy You're Still Healthy

Until such a time that the proportion of youth has somewhat reduced or stabilised in this country, I don’t think it is socio-economically sensible to keep on extending the retirement age of government servants to 60 and beyond. This is particularly so for those doing lower skill and routine jobs and those performing mainly administration jobs which are not that difficult to perform. Any form five or form six school leavers can be trained to undertake those jobs in no time, let alone those university graduates. In fact they would do a better job than the many “deadwood” currently in the civil service.

Do also look at the promotion of civil servants ( even those in GLCs) more so in the former whereby it is still based on seniority (despite what PM Najib has been advocating) rather than talent and capability (meritocracy). In some cases, promotion is by pandering up to bosses, relations of bosses and even on parochial and ethnic considerations and so you end up with half-baked director-generals,directors of this and that Department including complacent secretary generals.

By right those who are set to head big departments should be interviewed and selected by a committee rather than chosen by the previous head and worse still by a Minister!! If only the subordinates could grade these so-called superiors! Under these circumstances, it is not in the public interests to extend these people to continue their mediocre performance and embarrass our country at the international level when they are unable to participate actively and contribute meaningfully at conferences or meetings.

The PM’s slogan should be ” People First, Excellent Performance Now!”

Exceptional public servants especially in the technical and legal fields should be considered to be extended or put on some kind of contract upon their retirement but think twice about extending those in administration posts. These are not that critical to be retained as trained staff in line for the jobs are probably anxiously waiting for their turns.

The current practice of extending heads of federal departments like the Inspector general of police and director-generals of federal departments is bad and boring as it implies that there is no grooming of subsequent officers or no succession plan for others taking over to lead and give fresh ideas to the service and to manage change. What happens if the head dies prematurely?

To create vibrancy,renew commitment and address partiality in any service/organisation, the practice of changing heads of department like the university’s practice of rotating deans of faculties, every now and then is worth considering. This will weed out some director-generals or secretary-generals “yang besar kepala” or recalcitrant,pompous and not really bright! God forbid, if these guys are extended to 60-64!

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