Why It Matters

Better prospects for some workers

The latest labour market figures, which the Manpower Ministry released last week, are heartening for workers and job seekers, as they indicate things are starting to look up on the jobs front.

After last year's glum news on increased retrenchments and fewer job vacancies, the slight improvements in this year's second-quarter job data is a welcome glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

Retrenchments and resident unemployment are down, while more job openings are available.

And as economic growth this year is expected to be better than last year, demand for workers will, in turn, rise. But it will be confined largely to workers with specific skills in the growth industries. For instance, therapists and nurses are in great demand in the healthcare sector.

Hiring in other sectors such as construction and some manufacturing industries, like transport engineering, will likely remain muted.

Just as some industries are struggling, so are older workers. Their rate of re-entry into the job market was 52 per cent in the second quarter of this year, compared with the national average of 64 per cent.

This rate measures the proportion of resident workers retrenched in a specified quarter who find work in six months. It is important to note that the rate includes those who turned down a new job because they are taking a break from work or are retiring.

Still, many older workers could be casualties of technological disruption in various industries and of employers who tend to practise age discrimination, among other factors.

Even as the Government tries to encourage a mindset change among employers, like raising the re-employment age to 67 this year, older workers need to exploit the available avenues and arm themselves with the skills for new types of jobs.

This is crucial not only for older workers to do but all others also in order to adapt to the ongoing economic restructuring in the next few years.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2017, with the headline 'Better prospects for some workers'. Print Edition | Subscribe