Ways to keep older PMETs employable

Given the rapidly ageing population in Singapore and the increasing frequency of economic downturns, I agree with Mr William Tan Whee Kiem that more needs to be done to help professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs).

However, I disagree with his suggestions ("More robust measures needed to help middle-aged PMETs keep jobs"; Forum Online, March 21).

Increasing the costs of retrenchment or providing more financial safety nets does not solve the problem in the long run.

The key to solving this complex issue is to first educate Singaporeans to live within their means and to stay out of debt.

Drawn by cheap bank loans, many Singaporeans have been lured into buying bigger homes and expensive cars and living it up on their credit cards.

Such lifestyles and habits do not make Singaporeans rich. They make only bankers rich.

And, in an economic downturn, high-spending Singaporeans will have no means to weather the storm. No number of financial safety nets can help, if Singaporeans do not understand the principles of self-reliance and staying out of debt.

The Government, however, can definitely do more to create more jobs in Singapore.

For a start, it can bring back and retain more white-collar jobs here.

Many financial institutions continue to outsource their work to offshore centres in India, China and the Philippines.

Thousands of jobs in call centre operations, back-office processing and accounting functions, just to name a few, have been outsourced.

These are jobs that middle-aged PMETs can do or be trained to do within a short time.

While it may be true that many of these jobs are low-end administrative jobs, holding on to a low-end administrative job that provides a decent income for the family is better than having no job.

For many middle-aged PMETs, doing such work could be better than driving taxis on 12-hour shifts or other back-breaking jobs.

With a fast-ageing population, such jobs could also be made available to seniors who may want to continue working to keep themselves economically active.

And, with the advancement in technology, many of these jobs can be done from home, thus, reducing the cost of locating the operations in Singapore or adding congestion to our transport system.

Patrick Tan Siong Kuan