Budget dialogue: PAP seniors group urges more help for older workers

Concerns about prejudice towards older workers and laid-off middle-aged PMEs were raised in a closed-door dialogue with members of the PAP seniors group.
Concerns about prejudice towards older workers and laid-off middle-aged PMEs were raised in a closed-door dialogue with members of the PAP seniors group.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Members of the ruling party's senior wing welcomed this year's Budget, but called for the Government to boost efforts to help older Singaporeans get jobs and remain employable amid the slowing economy.

At a closed-door dialogue on the Budget on Wednesday (March 30), they raised concerns about prejudice against older workers and the plight of middle-aged PMEs who are laid off.

About 90 participants from the People's Action Party Seniors Group (PAP.SG) attended the forum.

In a press statement on Thursday (March 31) summing up participants' views, the group suggested the Government need to be more proactive in hiring older workers. Also, it should introduce more tangible initiatives that will let seniors who want to work to continue working.

One way would be for the Government to make it mandatory for employers to extend re-employment age from 65 to 67, they said.

They added that companies should be encouraged to redesign jobs to make them more suitable for elderly employees.

Some participants pointed out that some employment practices make it hard for older workers to take on a job. One example is the security industry, in which the practice is for the workers to do 12-hour shifts, six days a week.

Such conditions are too onerous for the elderly, they said.

Participants also urged the Government to do more to help professionals, managers, executives (PMEs) acquire new skills. Skills mismatch, they said, is a major issue for middle-aged PMEs who cannot find new jobs after they are laid off.

This group will be hit the hardest with layoffs rising, they added.

On the Workfare Income Supplement payouts, which had its qualifying income raised from $1,900 to $2,000, participants said it could penalise those who work overtime and thus become ineligible for the payouts.

They suggested that overtime be excluded when computing the salary to decide eligibility.

Other issues raised were on the Silver Support scheme, which gives cash payouts every quarter to the most vulnerable elderly, and on support for caregivers.

Participants asked if the Silver Support payouts could be given every month, which would be more helpful for low-income Singaporeans struggling with daily living expenses.

Madam Halimah Yacob, who chairs the group and conducted the dialogue, said that while participants identified areas that could have been better, most agreed it was a good Budget.

"The challenge for us now is how to communicate these measures, including those that have been introduced in previous years, so that people are able to view them holistically," she said.

Agreeing, PAP volunteer Irene Tan, who attended the forum, said people need to know how the new measures will affect them, and how they can benefit from new schemes.