Offer part-time work instead of retrenching

Dr Patrick Liew Siow Gian has pointed out the problem of implementing unemployment benefits, especially on an official long-term basis ("Unemployment benefits: Better to focus on raising number, quality of jobs"; April 20).

When I was twice served retrenchment notice in my volatile, fast-changing industry, I wished for retrenchment insurance, but there was none around.

But having no unemployment benefits, in hindsight, forced me to seek a new assignment more urgently and learn not to take my job for granted.

It has improved my work attitude and skills.

In today's tight labour market, we face a unique problem of rising retrenchment of mid-career professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) ("PMETs hard hit amid rise in layoffs last year"; April 21).

This causes great hardship to those who are least flexible in changing career paths. But, change we must, for the better.

There are usually reasons why companies lay off workers. Whether it be financial consideration or a productivity issue, the fact remains that the employer-employee relationship cannot be sustained.

Rather than crying over spilt milk, it is better to go on with life, which can often offer new and better opportunities, as has been the case in my own experience.

However, this is cold comfort to those who have just lost their once-secure jobs.

Dr Liew has suggested some long-term measures for the authorities to implement.

For the shorter term, I urge my fellow citizens to change their past mindset about work.

For most of us, work means a nine-to-five job that pays a secure income that extends many years (even for life, for the older generation).

My proposal is for all sectors - public, private, community services, for example - to embrace flexible work hours.

Under this system, a retrenched or retired person can choose to take on a "part-time" job on short notice, as long as he is willing to work.

The underlying danger of retrenchment insurance is that it takes away the will to re-join the workforce.

Even if unemployment benefits are given for a limited period, the recipient of such insurance can choose to be fussy or hold unreasonable job expectations.

With a flexi-work system, everyone who needs to work can get "employed" as long as he is able to, regardless of age.

At the same time, employers can be sure there will be motivated workers to fill the backlog.

This system requires community mutual support and a changed mindset over "quality" jobs versus menial work.

Geoffrey Kung