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Exclusive: HK retirement age ‘to jump to 70’

A NUMBER OF MAJOR ORGANIZATIONS in Hong Kong have plans to raise the city’s unusually low retirement age from the present 60, to 65 or even 70—and others may abandon it altogether, knowledgeable sources told this publication.

Closed-door government-linked discussions on the subject are taking place as the city undergoes a labor shortage, exacerbated by the sharp slowdown of families moving to Hong Kong from the mainland.

Up to now, about three out of four Hong Kong companies automatically part with workers at 60. Staff in many sectors (such as police whose retirement age was originally 55) have long decried being forced out of jobs when their rate of expertise and experience is at its highest. (Police officers can now work to the age of 60.)

There will likely be further upward movement in some professions. However, some workers with a low retirement age and a relatively high pension, such as some civil servants, may resist the process.

Still, many people will be happy. University academics have complained for years that they are typically given one year’s notice at the age of 59, when their ability to get academic papers published is at its highest.

Older people are helped to retrain; picture by Jimmy Chan/ Pexels

The government has been raising civil service retirement rates to 65 and encouraging private companies to do the same. Yet with economists warning that the labor market is actively shrinking from this year onwards, partly due to Hong Kong’s low birthrate, more drastic steps must be taken, sources say.

But how can the change be made in a laissez-faire society? The retirement age in Singapore is 62 but that city-state’s government forces companies to offer re-employment to retirees until the age of 67.

The Hong Kong government has always been less controlling, but has taken several steps.

As well as raising retirement ages for its own staff, it has been pushing a plan to give everyone aged 60 or more major travel privileges (such as paying HK$2 on the Discovery Bay ferry instead of HK$46) to encourage mobility.

It is financing several employment and retraining courses to help older jobseekers find work. Employers of older jobseekers can get HK$5,000 per month per staff member to help with training fees.

Ferry will be HK$2 instead of HK$46; picture by Daniel Case, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

In generally, the labour force participation rate for old people in Hong Kong is reasonably high.

Although lower than Japan, which has long experience in dealing with an ageing workforce, Hong Kong’s rate of elderly employment is comparable to the UK or Australia, and above that of France, Germany, and Italy.

The rate of older folks’ participation in work rose steadily after the British left, with a particularly sharp rise from 2008, the statistics show.

If some government departments, publicly-funded organizations, and private firms raise the retirement age to 70, Hong Kong would become one of the leading places in the world in this regard.

The city would be ahead of Europeans, who typically retire at 65, Southeast Asians, who are pensioned off between 58 and 60, and Mainland China, where the retirement age is 55 for women and 60 for men.

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Tomorrow in this web magazine: Hong Kong people are retiring in Mainland China in growing numbers.

Main picture: PVMS/ Unsplash

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