Singapore Proposes Measures to Tap Older Workers

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In light of tighter Singapore work visa policies as well as an estimated decrease in the number of local non-PMETS by 2030, several associations have come forward to propose measures to maximise the utility and efficiency of workers who are in their silver years. Singapore company registration specialist Rikvin recognises these recommendations as ways of reassuring businesses that they still have access to the manpower they need.

Recently, National Trades Union Congress’ Deputy Secretary General and Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Heng Chee How, described elderly workers as an untapped pool of labour, and urged tripartite partners to extend the re-employment age limit to 67 years old, up two years from the current threshold. He added that employers should value their older workers and see them as assets instead of burden. Employers are urged to pay workers who are re-employed fairly instead of making mechanical cuts to their pay and benefits.

Last week, a Channel NewsAsia report announced that the Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF) wants to encourage more firms to tap its Silver Productivity program. The program, which was designed to improve the processes and features to drive the productivity of older workers in the manufacturing and services sector, has disbursed S$45,000 to only five companies and 150 employees since its launch in 2011. It had anticipated that more firms and as many as 300,000 workers aged 55 and above would benefit.

  According to the White Paper on Population, 900,000 of Singapore’s baby boomers will retire in 17 years. This, along with current circumstances, opens up the opportunity for firms to allow silver generation workers to play their part as active citizens before retirement. Having active senior citizens is afterall a mark of a healthy society.”

SMF asserts that companies need to pay more attention and improve the efficiency of their older workers. However, Associate Professor Tan Khee Giap, co-Director of the Asia Competitiveness Institute, thinks that engaging, instead of squeezing productivity out of older people is sufficient and that older workers need to work safely and be paid fairly, first and foremost..

Commenting on these endeavors, Ms Christine Lim, General Manager of Rikvin said, “The government, has over the years introduced programs such as the Special Employment Credit, WorkRight and Silver Care Employment to encourage employers to get senior citizens back to the workforce. However, we recognise that the inertia is still strong among some companies to rehire elderly workers without adjusting their salary or benefits.”

“As discussed in an announcement in November last year, companies need to lead by example and treat ageing workers with consideration and respect. In a knowledge-based economy, where high productivity is highly valued, and old age is associated with lower productivity, many businesses would prefer to hire someone who is cheaper and faster, on pain of losing their competitive edge,” she added.

“However, according to the White Paper on Population, 900,000 of Singapore’s baby boomers will retire in 17 years. This, along with current circumstances, opens up the opportunity for firms to allow silver generation workers to play their part as active citizens before retirement. Having active senior citizens is afterall a mark of a healthy society. Having them back in the workforce allows them to enjoy financial empowerment, dignity and a social life outside of the home. In turn companies avoid a different kind of brain drain, one that cannot be bought in a knowledge-based economy,” affirmed Ms. Lim.