Financial pressures force Malaysia’s retirees to go back to work

Rising cost of living, heavy financial commitments and insufficient savings are among reasons cited by such individuals.


Steady hand: For Yap, being a cashier requires good communication skills. — LOW LAY PHON/The Star

August 22, 2022

PETALING JAYA – SHOPPERS at a hypermarket in Mutiara Damansara, Petaling Jaya, Selangor are greeted by a cheerful, elderly cashier at the payment counter.

Yap Siew Kin, 60, meets each of them with a smile, before scanning their items and placing them in bags.

With the groceries neatly arranged, she turns to ask each customer politely if the person prefers to pay by cash or card.

While her job seems simple, the cashier more fondly known as Patricia, is grateful for the employment opportunity.

“Not many companies want to hire people like me who are already in their 60s.

“I am grateful to still have a job so I can support my 80-year-old mother,” she said.

Yap is among a growing number of senior citizens who have returned to the workforce after retirement.

Rising cost of living, heavy financial commitments and insufficient savings are among reasons cited by such individuals.

StarMetro spoke to three seniors who shared about their motivation and challenges navigating the working world once again.

Fulfilling a need

After she retired as a clerk at a legal firm, Yap withdrew some of her Employees Provident Fund (EPF) savings.

“I took out RM40,000 but soon found out that it wasn’t enough to sustain my mother and myself.

“Also, food prices kept going up, so I decided to go back to work,” she said.

She pays RM800 a month for the rental of her apartment in Shah Alam, Selangor.

“I also set aside some money every month for medicine to treat my high blood pressure,” she noted.

Yap said her priority now was to ensure a good life for her elderly mother.

Her colleague, Hussin Abu, 68, has been working as a truck driver, making deliveries since 2013.

The father of three from Klang, Selangor, works daily except on Fridays, from 7am to 4pm.

After his retirement, Hussin tried being a school canteen operator.

“I withdrew my EPF savings to start the business with my wife, hoping it would be the start of something great.

“But we soon realised we were in over our heads. We suffered huge losses and used up all our savings,” he said.

Hussin said he did not want to rely on his three children as they were also saddled with financial commitments.

Working at the same supermarket is Janakay Kuppusamy, 64, who started as a store assistant about four years ago.

Her job involves moving fresh produce from the loading bay to the chiller area and eventually, the refrigerated display section.

“Some people have asked why I still work at this age.

“But I would much rather be working than staying at home and doing nothing.

“I may be older than my co-workers, but it does not mean that I do not have something to offer,” she said.

Janakay lives with her younger sister in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

“Apart from my sister, I have no one else to turn to.

“I must work to earn an income,” she said, adding that her EPF savings were insufficient.

Daily challengesBeing older than their co-workers does not spare Yap, Hussin and Janakay from the challenges that came with their jobs.

Yap said working as a cashier would sometimes put her at the receiving end of verbal abuse.

“It is not uncommon for customers to raise their voice at me over a simple misunderstanding.

“My communication skills are really put to the test when negotiating with an irate shopper,” she said, adding that her previous work experience gave her the patience to deal with such situations.

Hussin regularly had to climb flights of stairs at apartments to deliver heavy groceries to customers.

This is in addition to loading the goods into the truck he drove.

“When I first started this job, people were sceptical if I could handle the back-breaking work.

“I was hired on a three-month contract. I turned out to be capable and gained my employer’s trust,” he added.

Soon, he said, his contract was renewed and his service kept getting extended.

As for Janakay, she refused to let medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes get the better of her.

“I admit there are times when I felt tired or unwell at work, but I am determined to power through,” she added.

Staying active

Being employed gave the elderly something to look forward to every day and helped improve their mental well-being.

Yap said her work helped her to stay driven and focused.

“When there are many customers queueing up to pay, I must serve them quickly.

“If I slow down for any reason, my manager will come over to check on me,” she said with a laugh.

Hussin said many friends in his age group were impressed that he was able to stay physically fit.

“Most senior citizens tend to suffer from various health problems but not me, thanks to my work which requires me to move a lot.

“During my days off, I still have energy to play badminton with my neighbours,” he said.

Janakay, who lived near her workplace, walked to work and back.

She said each trip took 15 minutes.

“I do not find it difficult because it has become a routine for me.

“This is on top of me having to wake up around 5.30am to get ready, because I need to start work at 6am.

“As long as I am blessed with functioning hands and legs, I will keep working,” she said.

Steady hand: For Yap, being a cashier requires good communication skills. — LOW LAY PHON/The Star

Truck driver Hussin also has to load groceries onto the vehicle and often carries the deliveries up flights of stairs to customers’ homes.

Janakay’s daily tasks involve moving fresh produce from the chiller area to the refrigerated display section. — Photos: LOW LAY PHON/The Star

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