Opinion: Time to Raise the Retirement Age in Thailand

Photo: Matichon

Social activist Sombat Boonngam-anong, founder of the Mirror Foundation, which deals with missing persons as well as helping homeless people, wrote on his Facebook page earlier this week saying he was recently approached by a 61-year-old man while he was having a meal.

The man basically asked if he could be hired to work for some of his non-profit enterprises, adding he could sing and play music, as he used to do so for a living when he was younger, and had worked looking after a building. He can do watercolor paintings and more. The man then told him the real motive – he does not want to be a financial burden to his daughter, the sole breadwinner.

Sombat said the only problem is the man has passed the Thai retirement age of 60. At his foundation, he added, they have hired many people older than 60 along with homeless people, 200 in all, but there are still many more elderly people looking for employment.

“Allow me to send a signal,” Sombat concluded, without stating whether he eventually hired the man or not.


Indeed, it is a SOS signal for help and change. It is an issue the government cannot ignore, and in fact, should pay urgent attention to as many countries have already raised the retirement age beyond 60 while according to the little heard Department of Older Persons, about 30 percent of the Thai population are already over the age of 60 – and it is growing fast.

In Japan, the retirement age is 65. In Singapore, it is 63 and will be raised to 69 in 2026, or two years from now.

In the U.K., it is 66. In France, it is 62. It is time for Thailand to consider raising the minimum retirement age of Thai workers, both in the public and private sectors.

There will be a lot of adjustments, but the government should act now before the problem’s magnitude is no longer manageable. Tax incentives can be provided to the private sector, and in fact, the government can also encourage or initiate ventures that employ people who are over 60 or even in their seventies and provide them with a level of decent income, albeit lower than those below 60 instead of having them just expecting unrealistic state subsidies in which the state could ill afford.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin himself is 62 and shows no sign of needing or wanting to resign. Former Deputy Junta leader and Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan, the current leader of Phalang Pracharath Party, is 78 and is still hoping to become PM, and ex-premier-turned-ex-convict Thaksin Shinawatra, at 74, is definitely not retiring but actively making political remarks and widely regarded as the real PM of Thailand today.


Alas, many Thais above the age of 60 find themselves no longer employable. This is not just a burden to the economy, but also a waste of experienced manpower in many sectors.

At 62, PM Srettha should know best that many people his age, or even older, do not want to simply be unemployed or dependent on their children (which is becoming less common as some have no children). The obvious solution is to start experimenting and extend retirement age and return those who are still fit and willing to work the dignity they deserve.