Out of 55 countries, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, and South Korea are expected to experience the largest declines in working-age population over the next decade, a Moody's report noted last year. That's a trend that can leave countries facing labor shortages, not least in professions related to caring for the elderly.
But even in Asian countries with growing working populations, such as Thailand and Vietnam, people are living longer, meaning the over-65 set is also increasing rapidly, Kanak noted.
Those longer - and often healthier - lives can offer some good reasons to move back retirement ages.
Some countries have already taken steps to address the issue. For example, from around 2009, Singapore began tightening the rules on lump-sum withdrawals from its retirement savings program, the Central Provident Fund (CPF), raising the age from 55 to 65 within the next couple of years. That followed a sea change in life expectancies: The average life expectancy in Singapore in 1957 was around 61 years, while in 2012, it had increased to 82.3 years, according to government data.
In Japan, which with more than a quarter of its population already over the age of 65 is often the poster child for aging societies, studies indicate people remain healthier and relatively active longer than retirement ages suggest.
In a study that followed 6,000 people over a 25-year period, about 80 percent stayed healthy until their mid-70s before seeing a gradual decline in their ability to care for themselves, noted Hiroko Akiyama, a professor at the Institute of Gerontology at the University of Tokyo, at the conference.
"If most of the people stay healthy until 80, that's really changed the future picture," she said. "They can join the labor force and also they can control their costs."
But she's less interested in seeing a new retirement age.
"Raising the mandatory retirement age is not a very good policy," Akiyama said. "The government, I think, [should] create a flexible scheme of employment system, so all diverse people can join the labor force. "
That's an idea that appears to be catching on with Asia's workers.
"In China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea, young and midlife adults are less likely than the elderly to agree that people should 'retire at a fixed age and not work again' or that they should 'work as long as they are able' — and more likely to agree that they should 'be free to start and stop working whenever they are able and willing'," the survey from the Global Aging Institute found.
The study found that in nine Asian countries, including China, Vietnam, Singapore and South Korea, more than 50 percent of current workers - and in some cases more than 70 percent - expect to retire at age 60 or later.