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No age discrimination: Bill seeks removal of mandatory retirement age

By John Patrick Magno Ranara Published Aug 15, 2022 3:14 pm Updated Aug 16, 2022 9:23 am

Some senior citizens consider retirement as a reward for all the years of hard work they did to build the life they want for themselves or for their families. However, there are others who still have they have some fire left within them to continue working despite their age.

This is the case for 67-year-old Mark* (not his real name), who still works hard as a jounalist for a newspaper despite already having the option to kick back and retire two years ago. 

A reporter for over 40 years, Mark said in an email interview that he still continues to work simply because he is still able to.

"I am physically and mentally fit to continue covering assignments and writing about them. I know many colleagues, reporters and editors alike, who continue to work in print and broadcasting and now online until their senior years, and they continue to deliver excellent reportage and editing," Mark said.

And it looks like he is going to continue working for however long he wants should the proposed bill on scrapping the mandatory retirement age be approved by lawmakers.

In case you missed it, there's been an ongoing discussion whether employees in the private sector should still continue working despite reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65.

Senior Citizens Party-list Rep. Rodolfo Ordanes recently filed House Bill 3220, which seeks to amend that provision in the country's Labor Code. According to the bill, an employee who "reached the age of sixty-five years can choose to continue their employment provided that he qualifies under the bona fide occupational qualifications of his job."

The proposed bill states that it is within the responsibility of the employer to prove whether such employees could still work despite their age.

During a press briefing that discussed the latest labor report by the Philippine Statistics Authority, national statistician Dennis Mapa said that the labor force participation rate, or the ratio of those working or actively looking for work, among those age 65 and above increased from 34.9 to 38.2 percent last May.

Old vs. new generation

Many citizens are divided on the issue to remove the mandatory retirement age. Some reasoned that if senior citizens are still physically and mentally capable, then there is nothing wrong with letting them work, while others wanted to give a chance for the younger generation to have more job opportunities. 

Ordanes stated that he proposed the measure because of the rising costs of economy, which may leave retired senior citizens burdened.

"Today, senior citizens are unable to fully enjoy retirement because they are unable to save enough money to compete with the rising costs of being senior citizens. [F]ilipino retirees were found to have limited savings for their retirement," Ordanes stated in the bill.

The lawmaker said that because of the law on compulsory retirement as well as prejudices against the capabilities of elderly people, senior citizens are "relegated into [a] situation where they have to become part of the unsafe informal economy or rely on handouts by their relatives just to survive".

National Economic Development Authority director general Arsenio Balisacan has voiced his support for the bill, reasoning that those aged 65 to 70 can still be productive despite living in a technology-reliant world.

"Old guys like me can also be trained in digital. I think the trick here is just open up the possibilities and let people choose what is best, the best fit for them," Balisacan said during the conference for the second quarter economic performance on Aug. 9.

According to Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma in a radio interview, the bill must be studied in detail because it "is not a simple matter that should be decided immediately."

Meanwhile Mark, like many other able-bodied senior citizens in good health, stressed that everybody should be given the chance to have jobs regardless of their age.

"The idea that workers should start considering retirement at the age of 60 and must retire by the age of 65 is outdated. I believe that if a person wants to work and is deemed fit mentally and physically and can accomplish assignments similar to his or her colleagues, then he or she should be allowed to work," he said.

He added, "Senior workers also have a wealth of experience that should not be wasted in idle retirement."