While governments all around most of the world garner criticism and experience great resistance whenever they try to raise the retirement age, in Asia it is a different story. The majority of the working population actually wants to see the Asia retirement age increase.

According the Donald Kanak, the chairman of Prudential Corporation Asia, a mandatory retirement age always needs thought before implementation. In order for such a policy to work, it has to have the support of the majority of the people.

He added, “Whereas we’ve seen some European countries go into demonstrations when the retirement age was changed relatively small amounts… [within Asia], we actually see a remarkable degree of support.”

Kanak referred to a research poll conducted by the Global Aging Institute, which was published in September. It was discovered that in the six Asian nations surveyed – Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand – the majority of the survey respondents thought that their government should raise the retirement age.

In order to find the reliability of such a study, the method of collecting the data should also be examined. The data was collected through a phone survey and is believed to be nationally representative based on each country’s census data, although it is believed that some countries’ results were skewed toward urban residents.


Asia Retirement Age Increase Could be Beneficial

This behavior of willingly accepting a higher retirement age in Asia is the exact opposite of the European. Any efforts to raise the bar have been met with loud protests for as long as it can be remembered. In April earlier this year, for example, when France planned to raise the retirement age from 57 to 59, it was met with strikes from airline controllers so severe that several hundreds of flights flying in and out of the country were forcibly canceled.

While there has been no official explanation from the Global Aging Institute on why Asians are more willing to accept a higher retirement age, speculation of the reasons include financial concerns in old age due to generally lower pension, desire to remain active, and a wish to avoid burdening their children who, in age-old tradition, are to support their parents in their old age.

The reasons behind the desire for an increase in retirement age may not be definite, but one this is for sure – there are definitely reasons supporting the increase, at least from a demographic perspective.

One of the main reasons pushing the implementation of the increase in retirement age would be the fact that societies are getting older faster than ever. The number of Asians over the age of 60 is expected to hit 1.2 billion by 2050, compared to 2012’s 450 million, according to the Pew Research Center.

Even in Europe, it is estimated that by 2025 more than 25% of the EU population will be 65 or over, which is more or less in equal proportion to the estimated percentage of Singaporeans over 65 by 2030.

Another reason is that people are not only living longer but are also healthier in many Asian countries with growing working populations.


People Don’t Want Work Forced Upon Them

A study conducted in Japan, which followed 6,000 people over a 25-year period, showed that about 80% stayed healthy until their mid-70s before experiencing a drastic decline in their ability to take care of themselves, noted Hiroko Akiyama, a professor at the Institute of Gerontology at the University of Tokyo.

According to her, if people could really stay healthy that long, they should be able to join the labor force so that they can control their costs. However, this does not mean that she believes that an increase in mandatory retirement age is the answer.

“Raising the mandatory retirement age is not a very good policy,” Akiyama said. “The government should create a flexible scheme of employment system, so all diverse people can join the labor force.”

It seems as if that is indeed an idea that is widely shared by Asian workers.

A survey from the Global Aging Institute came to the conclusion that the a lot more proportion of young and midlife adults are agreeing that they should be ‘free to start and stop working when they are able and willing’ and not stick to a fixed age limit.

The study also found that in nine Asian countries, including China, Vietnam, Singapore and South Korea, the majority of the current workers expected to retire at the age of 60 or later.

About Reid Kirchenbauer

Reid Kirchenbauer is the Founder of InvestAsian. He's experienced with trading stocks and buying property in Thailand, Cambodia, and elsewhere. He's been featured in publications such as Forbes, Nomad Capitalist, Property Report, and Seeking Alpha. Download his free investment guide by clicking here.

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