A growing number of Malaysians are happy to work as long as their health permits, despite having savings or investments, a recent survey conducted by the University of Malaya’s Social Security Research Centre (SSRC) has suggested.

Close to half of the respondents aged 60 and above continue to work, with most of them feeling their savings are insufficient, said the report.

Malaysia, which in 2013 increased the minimum retirement age from 55 to 60 for private sector employees, is expected to become an “ageing nation” in 2020, when the percentage of the population aged 65 and above reaches 7.2 per cent, according to a report from the government’s Department of Statistics.

To prepare for the increasing number of older employees, organisations have to develop new strategies to deal with the change, such as continually upgrading their workforce’s skills, the SSRC recommended in its survey conclusions.

Employment specialists serving the Malaysian market remain upbeat in the face of this trend. "We believe that having older people in the workforce is a great benefit, and not just in terms of diversity and inclusion, as they bring with them years of experience and wisdom that can benefit companies as well as younger workers,” said Kishan Golyan, market intelligence specialist at the Asia Pacific office of The Adecco Group.

“Malaysian HR departments need to rethink and redesign jobs to make them more suitable for older workers, which would mean looking at what tasks are performed as a part of the job, as well as when and where they are performed. They should also come up with refined benefit schemes that match the evolving needs of this workforce,” he added.

Golyan pointed out that, in March, neighbouring Singapore passed a higher re-employment age into law, making it mandatory for employers to offer re-employment to eligible Singaporean workers up to the age of 67, two years higher than the previous limit.

Lavanya Ullas, associate director at ChapmanCG, stressed that employees nearing retirement age are ripe with experience of how to get new projects, processes and technologies across the finish line.

Ullas says this makes them great mentors in change-based projects, as they can coach younger employees on managing their expectations and how to navigate organisations going through transformations.

“While employers will need to create a flexible working environment, older employees should stay relevant by keeping their skills updated, and it’ll also be important for them to accept part-time or project-based work,” Ullas said.

“Although it can be daunting to learn new skills, especially when you’re already quite experienced, technology has changed the playing field for everyone,” she added.

The University of Malaya Centre for Continuing Education has estimated that the number of potential lifelong learners will reach almost 23 million by the year 2020, accounting for 74 per cent of the entire population.

Malaysia’s Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) has a policy stating it intends to make lifelong learning among Malaysians the norm by 2025.

Presenting the national budget for 2018 in a speech last week, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced the implementation of Master’s and PhD courses in-house for public service officers to encourage lifelong learning.

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