Longevity can be turned into a positive force for economic and social development, if societies can be transformed to become more age-friendly.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made this point on Thursday afternoon (Nov 19) at a closed-door retreat session with APEC leaders. He was speaking on the challenge of bringing an ageing population into the inclusive growth framework.
With more than half the world’s population living in countries where the fertility rate is below the replacement rate of 2.1, developed and developing economies across the world are grappling with rapid ageing populations. In Singapore for example, by 2030, one in five people will be 65 years and above.
Mr Lee said that while some fear “a silver tsunami” that can pose fiscal strains on economies, and result in decreasing economic vitality and competitiveness, “longer lives can make up for lower fertility, if older workers can be supported in achieving lifelong employability”.
According to Mr Lee, Singapore is tapping on potential opportunities in longevity by transforming society in three ways.
First, the Government is enabling seniors to stay active and healthy. Mr Lee said this will be done in a few ways, including raising the re-employment age to 67 by next year, and supporting companies to redesign jobs and workplaces to suit an older workforce. Through a nationwide SkillsFuture scheme, each adult worker will also get a personal learning account with S$500 of credit from the Government that can be used to enroll in courses to help them “learn, retrain and acquire deep skills in different sectors”.
Second, safety nets in housing, retirement adequacy and healthcare have been strengthened so that seniors can age confidently and with a peace of mind”.
To this end, Mr Lee said that the Government has introduced schemes like Silver Support – which provides a monthly payout to low-income elderly Singaporeans – and Medishield Life, a universal healthcare insurance scheme.
Third, the city-state’s infrastructure in public transport, public housing, and parks are being refreshed, so that seniors can “move around the city independently, confidently and freely".
By doing this, Mr Lee said, "we can minimise the burden of ageing and maximise the contributions that old people can make and make sure they feel an inclusive part of society and strengthen our resilient community".