Governments around most of the world garner criticism and resistance whenever they try to raise the retirement age. It’s a different story in Asia though. People of working age actually want to see the retirement age increase.

According to Donald Kanak, Chairman of Prudential Asia, a mandatory retirement age needs much thought before implementation. For such a policy to work, it needs majority support.

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

Kanak cited a research poll by the Global Aging Institute. They found in the six Asian nations surveyed – Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand – the majority of respondents thought their government should raise the retirement age.

Data was collected through a phone survey which was nationally representative of each country’s census data. However, critics believe the samplings had a skew toward urban residents.


Strong Support for Asia Retirement Age Increase

This behavior of willingly accepting a higher retirement age in Asia is the exact opposite of Europe. Loud protests met similar efforts in the European Union.

For example, France planned to raise the retirement age from 57 to 59. Strikes from airline controllers along with hundreds of cancelled flights resulted.

There’s no official explanation from the Global Aging Institute on why Asians are more willing to accept a higher retirement age. But speculation includes financial concerns in old age due to lower pensions, desire to remain active, and a wish to avoid burdening their children.

Reasons behind support for an increase in retirement age may not be definite. With that said, there are definitely reasons supporting the increase from a demographic perspective.

Societies are aging faster than ever, which is a main reason why a retirement age increase is positive. The number of people in Asia over the age of 60 will reach hit 1.2 billion by 2050. That’s compared to 450 million in 2012.

The aging trend is global too. Even in Europe, more than 25% of the population is now aged 65 or older.


People Don’t Want Work Forced Upon Them

Yet another reason for support is because people are not only living longer, but also healthier in many Asian countries. Old age isn’t necessarily the same as poor health anymore.

A study which followed 6,000 Japanese people over a 25-year period showed that about 80% stayed healthy until their mid-70s. That’s according to Hiroko Akiyama, professor at the Institute of Gerontology at the University of Tokyo.

She said that people should be able to join the labor force if they can really stay healthy that long. 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,” said Akiyama. “The government should create a flexible employment system, so all diverse people can join the labor force.”

Asian workers widely share that idea. The Global Aging Institute found that a greater proportion of young and midlife adults want freedom to stop working when they’re able and willing.

The study also found that in nine Asian countries, including China, Vietnam, Singapore, and South Korea, most workers will retire at age 60 or later.

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About Reid Kirchenbauer

Reid Kirchenbauer is the Founder of InvestAsian. He's an accomplished stock trader and property investor in Thailand, Cambodia, and many other places. 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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