Experts say that due to the lack of an adequate provident scheme, many are forced to keep on working into old age Sixty per cent of middle-aged people in Hong Kong will never retire, many citing money as a primary concern, according to a government survey. The results of the poll were discussed by academics in a seminar yesterday at the University of Hong Kong entitled 'To retire or not to retire: is there an option for older adults in Hong Kong?'. Academics agreed that many people were forced to carry on working after reaching retirement age because of the lack of a comprehensive retirement scheme in Hong Kong. The survey of 1,209 workers aged between 45 and 59 was carried out by the Census and Statistics Department in its 2001 general household survey. Iris Chi Yi, professor and director of the university's Sau Po Centre on Ageing, said the findings showed 60 per cent of people said they would never retire, compared with 14 per cent in the United States. The survey also showed 11 per cent of Hong Kong people chose to stop working after retirement age, compared with 75 per cent of people in the US. Only 29 per cent of Hong Kong people decided to retire at or before reaching retirement age. Professor Chi said many Hong Kong people were unable to retire even though they had reached retirement age, as the existing Mandatory Provident Fund, which was started in December 1999, was not enough to support them. 'We are not saying all people should retire at the age of 60 or 65. However, we believe it would be an ideal if Hong Kong people could have a choice to retire or to continue working after they reach the retirement age,' she said. Professor Chi said people would only have a choice as to whether to retire when there was a comprehensive retirement scheme in place. But she said many people in Hong Kong did not enjoy these choices. She added it was equally important to protect the elderly from age discrimination if they were looking for work. Her view was shared by Wong Hung, a social work professor at Chinese University. However, Dr Wong said many people, especially in their 40s and 50s, were facing a dilemma amid the economic hardship and high jobless rate in Hong Kong. Dr Wong said that although many middle-aged workers sought to keep their jobs, they were always the first to lose out in early retirement and redundancy plans carried out by private companies to cut costs. Wu Wai-yung of the Elderly Commission, the top government advisory body on policies for the elderly, criticised the government for failing to tackle the problems faced by an ageing population in Hong Kong, for instance by introducing a well-planned retirement scheme. 'Comprehensive Social Security Assistance is not a solution. The government policy and the whole system are lagging behind social changes,' Dr Wu said. But Chan Ying-keung, a sociology professor from the Chinese University, said that instead of relying solely on the government, people should take it upon themselves to prepare for their retirement.