Mahathir must not be two centuries behind Bismarck and should direct a
completely new study on the issue of raising retirement age to 60, involving
the fullest public consultation and debate
(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): The
decision of the new Cabinet not to approve the CUEPACS proposal to extend
the compulsory retirement age of civil servants to beyond 55 years but
to allow retention of their services based on performance and need should
be reviewed and reconsidered.
by Lim Kit Siang
This is because the Cabinet decision had been made in a very feudalistic
manner without the fullest public consultation and debate in line with
the principles of accountability, transparency and good democratic governance.
The retirement age of 55 for civil servants in Malaysia was introduced
by the British in the 1950s, but how many Ministers and decision-makers
are aware of the following:
Of the seven major industrialized nations, the United States, Germany,
and Canada set normal retirement age at 65 for both men and women. In the
other countries, the retirement age is lower. In the case of the United
Kingdom, men have a retirement age of 65 while women can retire at 60.
Germany is probably the first nation in the world in 1889 under Bismarck
to introduce a standard retirement age and adopt an old-age social insurance
program. Germany initially set age 70 as the retirement age (and
Bismarck himself was 74 at the time) and it was not until 27 years later
in 1916 that the age was lowered to 65.
The United States first introduced the standard retirement age 65
years ago in 1935 when the Social Security Act established 65 as the minimum
age at which retirement benefits can be obtained. Sixty-five was selected
as a compromise between age 60, which appeared too low from a cost standpoint,
and age 70, which appeared too high given that life expectancy at the time
was 59 years for men and 63 years for women. Since 1956, women have had
the option to take reduced benefits at age 62, and since 1961, this option
has also been available to men. As a result, 62 has been defined as the
EEA (early eligibility age) and 65 is considered the NRA (normal
Life expectancy has gone up substantially since the normal
retirement age of 65 and the early eligibility age of 62 were established.
In 1983, a gradual increase in the normal retirement age to
67 was enacted and there is active debate for it to be raised to 70 years.
In the United Kingdom, the 1945 welfare state legislation set the retirement
age at 65 for men as the average life expectancy of a man was 63 at the
time and there is now active debate for the raising of the retirement age
as life expectancy has risen to 75 years.
When the British in the colonial times in the 1950s fixed the retirement
age of 55 for civil servants in Malaya, it was probably the
typical product of White Manís superiority complex, motivated by two factors,
to allow the British civil servants the excuse to return home at 55 while
having utter contempt for the locals as having the ability to continue
in productive service after this age.
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad have exhorted
Malaysians ad nauseum to liberate themselves from all forms of neo-colonialism,
including mental and spiritual - and one of the things Malaysians should
free themsleves from is the British colonial decision in the 50s that Malaysians
are no more productive after 55, especially as with better
health care and medical services, the average life expectancy of
Malaysians is 72 years.
In any event, it is most incongruous for a Cabinet headed by a 74-year-old
Prime Minister to reject a proposal that the 55-year retirement age of
civil servants be raised to 60 when 111 years ago the German Chancellor,
also at the same age of 74 years old, had set 70 years as the standard
Mahathir must not be seen as two centuries behind Bismarck and he should
direct a completely new study to be made on this issue, involving the fullest
public consultation and debate affecting not only CUEPACS, but all
sectors of Malaysians society.
The most powerful argument for the raising of the retirement age from
55 to 60 is that if judges, ever since independence, are only retired at
65. there is no reason why civil servants cannot function effectively up
to the age of 60.
*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman