Ageing society

Hong Kong Disneyland changes retirement policy, offers permanent contracts beyond 60

  • Change is part of a growing trend in the city to retain older workers
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 January, 2019, 4:30pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 January, 2019, 4:32pm

Hong Kong Disneyland employees will be able to work at the theme park beyond the age of 60 on permanent contracts after a new policy took effect on Tuesday.

Some 130 full-time workers turning 60 or above this year will benefit, the company said.

The city’s Disneyland park has about 7,000 employees – 5,000 full time and 2,000 part time. About 430 full-timers are currently between the ages of 55 and 60. Only full-time workers will benefit from the change.

Previously those over 60 had their existing contracts updated each year if they were able to keep working, the park said. The new policy provides open-ended contracts with no termination date.

Leung Shu-wah, the 58-year-old food and beverage executive sous-chef at the park’s department for Chinese cuisine, stood to take advantage.

“It relieves the pressure of retiring and lets us work in a familiar and comfortable environment at the park,” said Leung, who has been with the company since 2005.

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His department has about 60 full-time employees, and 60 per cent have been with the park since its opening in 2005. Leung said most supported the change.

“The new policy provides equal opportunities for those over 60, who can now decide when to retire according to their health and working capabilities,” Leung said.

Those with rich experience of their roles would now have more chance to train younger workers, Leung added.

Eleanor Fung Siu-lin, Disneyland’s 59-year-old leader of cleaning operations, said: “It is difficult for those over 60 to find new jobs. The policy helps those who are still capable of working to keep living on their own.

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“I had planned to stay at home after retiring, but now I can keep working at the park as long as I’m capable,” she said.

Danny Kwok Chi-leung, manager of cleaning operations, said 16 employees in his department would be taking advantage of the new policy.

He said the park had introduced wireless hand-held vacuum machines and driers as well as automatic leaf cleaners to help older workers more easily carry out their duties.

Local lawmaker Luk Chung-hung, of the Federation of Trade Unions, welcomed Disney’s move.

“Gone are the days when Hong Kong’s elderly workers were regarded as poorly educated or unskilled,” Luk said.

“I am not sure that we should define 60 as old nowadays. Many are still healthy, and it would be a waste of human resources if we forced this group to stop working.”

Luk said the city was playing catch-up with other developed economies on this issue, and local employers needed to recognise what older workers brought to the table.

“The important thing is that employees be allowed a choice,” he said.

Last year the government introduced a scheme allowing civil servants to retire at 65 years old, or 60 in the disciplined services. Previously the retirement age was 60, and between 55 and 57 in the disciplined services, depending on rank.

In her 2017 policy speech, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the change was “to tie in with the goal of expanding the labour force”.

Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong’s flagship airline, last year agreed to raise the retirement age for cabin crew from 55 to 60.

Additional reporting by Ng Kang-chung