Delayed retirement is set to become more common in Hong Kong as an ageing population and decades of low fertility rates lead to a shrinking workforce, according to the actuarial industry. Hong Kong does not have any law that stipulates when workers should retire, although it has been generally accepted in the public and private sectors that women retire at 60 and men at 65. The lack of legislation has given employers flexibility over their retirement arrangements. The vice-president of the Actuarial Society of Hong Kong, Jack Mak, said that retirement ages would inevitably rise among workers aged 50 to 65. They had fewer children than previous generations and therefore fewer to depend on when they stopped working. 'It's set to rise, whether mandatory or not,' Mak said. A recent survey by an international investment management company found 40 per cent of workers expect to work beyond 65 due to inflation and an uncertain economic outlook. But the issue has prompted protests in some parts of the world where older employees feel their welfare and living standards are being compromised. Economists have argued that longer work life can boost the economy and even prolong lives. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research in Britain, where legislation banning employers from laying off workers when they reach 65 came into effect last year, said that the one-year extension of employees' working lives would increase gross domestic product by about 1 per cent within six years of implementation. Meanwhile, a University of Zurich study, co-authored by economist Dr Josef Zweimuller, found that early retirement reduced life expectancies, especially among male workers, who were more prone to smoke and drink in their free time. The study of 20,000 blue-collar workers in Austria found that one additional year of early retirement reduced the life span of the sampled male workers by 1.8 months. In May, a Hong Kong government task force under former chief secretary Stephen Lam Sui-lung warned that the city's shrinking labour force could soon start to jeopardise the economy. It recommended reviewing the retirement age. Elderly Commission chairman Alfred Chan Cheung-ming cautioned the government to consider economic cycles before advancing policies to extend the working life of Hongkongers. Keeping the elderly in the workforce may not help if they were unskilled. About 45 per cent of Hong Kong people aged between 50 and 65 have attained only primary school-level or no education, according to census statistics. But Chan, who is also chair professor of social gerontology at Lingnan University, said the government could help create an elderly-friendly work environment by reducing barriers, such as the higher insurance premiums required for this age group. Lee Shiu-hung, 79, a retired Health Department chief, said the government could take the lead by hiring retired senior officials, who currently bow out at 60. Lee retired in 1994 and went on to help found Chinese University's school of public health. He now advises the school on a volunteer basis. He said the retired officials may not necessarily have to have full official capacity and they did not need to receive a full salary. 'Some can be volunteers and some can contribute in other ways,' he said. Lee said non-government organisations could encourage retired people back to work and that the government could inject funding to the organisations that would, in turn, provide economic incentives. Lee said money was not what mattered most for retirees. 'You have to keep forward-looking, stay in touch with society, exercise to live a healthy life,' he said.