Reality of hiring older workers

Mr Gabriel Cheng Kian Tiong rightly points out that there is a disconnect between what employers and out-of-work PMETs deem acceptable when it comes to remuneration (Employers, PMETs must manage pay expectations; March 27).

But there are other reasons why older displaced workers find it difficult to rejoin the workforce.

For instance, PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) who have stayed in a particular industry for many years may find that their skills are too industry- or even employer-specific.

They may not have kept pace with current processes, technology and social networking, and may simply be out of sync with the requirements of other organisations.

Even if these retrenched workers succeed in landing a job, albeit at a much lower salary, there is a perception that a significant number do not stay on in their new jobs and quit out of frustration because they find learning new tasks and skills difficult.

Also the experience of human resources experts has been that workers who take big pay cuts tend to jump ship at the slightest opportunity.

Then there is the health issue. Senior workers often come with higher healthcare costs in terms of company insurance, as well as an inevitably shorter future with the employer, owing to their advanced age.

There is no shortage of anecdotal evidence that age discrimination, when it comes to hiring, is a serious problem. Some of the harsh realities surrounding older workers cannot be denied.

But there are no specific anti-discrimination laws in place in Singapore, and no employer will come outright and admit to prejudice against older workers.

Simon Owen Khoo Kim San