People are living longer these days thanks to improved healthcare which has given rise to so-called “young retirees”.
Most of these retirees are full of vigor and able to work in their sixties or seventies.
Although they might not be physically fit enough to work full-time, many are capable of working part-time, even volunteer work, with little or no pay.
In the past, most discussions about the elderly focused on their purchasing power but their potential to boost the labor force has been largely overlooked.
With our working population shrinking due to low birth rates, perhaps it’s time our government started thinking about how to tap this abundant and often hidden reserve of elderly workers who are experienced, well educated and too energetic to be confined to their home.
Recently, the Labor and Welfare Bureau announced a plan to launch a pilot program next year to train grandparents in childcare, so they will be able to care for their own grandchildren or those of others.
Studies have shown that the main reason many women are opting out of full-time work is that they have to take care of their families.
In fact, public and private childcare services in Hong Kong are so insufficient many working women are forced to leave the job market, thereby undermining our already diminishing labor force.
The planned pilot program can address this issue and help retain women in the workforce.
Also, it can provide job opportunities for elders who are able and willing to work.
Apart from providing training for the elderly in child care, the government can also consider expanding their participation in various social welfare services such as escorting people on doctor’s visits and making regular home visits.
The social welfare service sector has been plagued by a shortage of primary caregivers and has difficulty attracting young people with its relatively low pay and limited career prospects.
By encouraging elders to take part in social welfare and community services, the government can boost our social services and also enable our elders to support themselves financially after retirement, creating a win-win situation.
The article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug. 21.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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