Re-visiting Retirement through a Transnational Lens: A Case Study of Older Singaporeans Working in China

Dr Leng Leng Thang1 ,Dr Sylvia Ang1 ,Dr Elaine Lynn-Ee Ho1

1National University Of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore

Scholars researching work and retirement are increasingly recognizing the need to re-visit the assumed stable institution of retirement. Among which, Freedman’s (1999) call for reinventing retirement, and others who propose a ‘blurring’ of traditional life stages with more flexible retirement/work-life patterns (for example Featherstone and Hepworth, 1990; Riley and Riley 2000) have initiated ideas to transform work and retirement in the future. Nevertheless, in the field of migration studies, work and retirement are still often perceived as separated, with studies on labor and professionals migration clearly distinguished from the international retirement migration literature. With the aim of addressing the gap in understanding the intersection of migration and the ‘blurring’ of work/retirement, this paper thus focuses on exploring the notion of retirement and the ‘blurring’ of its boundary in an inter-Asia context. The data of the paper is derived from a multi-component project called “TRACE” (Transnational Relations and Care Ethics). This component consisted of interviews with older Chinese Singaporeans who have worked in China on a long-term basis. The respondents interviewed in 2018 and 2019 have been residing in China for an average of about 19 years, mainly in big cities such as Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Through the voices of 27 older Singaporeans in this group, we observe the desired pattern of a blurred boundary on retirement/perceived retirement that is at the same time impacted by family constellation, cultural and socio-economic factors. We contend that there is a need for a nuanced understanding of retirement/perceived retirement patterns, taking into consideration the complexity of the transnational environment in which they are experiencing ageing and envision their futures.


Leng Leng Thang is Associate Professor at the Department of Japanese Studies, and Associate at Asia Research Institute (ARI), National University of Singapore. Her research includes Japan-Singapore socio-cultural issues, intergenerational relations and programming, aging, family, retirement, gender with a focus on Japan and Singapore, as well as Asia in general.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

Conference Managers

Please contact the team at Conference Design with any questions regarding the conference.

Photo Credits: Visit Victoria

© 2019 Conference Design Pty Ltd