Singapore Budget 2015: Employers have incentives to hire older workers: Amy Khor

SINGAPORE - It will be another two or three years before laws make compulsory the re-hiring of older workers until the age of 67, but in the meantime employers already have incentives to do so voluntarily.

They are also encouraged to put in place age management practices, to better prepare themselves for employing an inevitably older workforce, said Senior Minister of State for Manpower Amy Khor in Parliament on Monday.

She noted that the employment rate of older Singaporeans aged 55 to 64 hit a new high of 66 per cent last year, which is also one of the highest rates even among developed countries.

But she added: "Even though the employment rate for this group of Singaporeans is high, we should continue to invest in our efforts to ensure older Singaporeans can continue working."

The Government has taken the gradual approach of raising the re-employment age to 67 - a goal it first set in 1993 - because it feared that not giving firms sufficient time to adapt could have the opposite effect of making older workers less employable.

It was not until 2012 that the new Retirement and Re-employment Act allowed senior workers to be re-employed to the age of 65.

"Our experience has shown that adopting re-employment, as an approach to raising the employment rate of older individuals beyond the age of 62, works for Singapore. This puts us in good stead to eventually move the re-employment age to 67," Dr Khor said.

She cited data which showed that more employers rehired their older workers last year without cutting their basic wages, compared to 2013.

Dr Khor also reiterated that the Government will help employers to improve workplace practices, in order to attract and retain mature workers.

Among other things, the Government has offered grants like the Job Redesign Grant, which gives employers up to $300,000 to defray the cost of redesigning their workplace so as to improve productivity. In doing so, they can recruit and retain mature workers and Singaporeans returning back to work after dropping out of the workforce.

The Government also aims to raise the skills of older workers, through grants and subsidies for continual education and training, and will help to reinforce positive perceptions of older workers, by conducting advisory sessions and training workshops to encourage employers to tap on their expertise.

"For individuals who encounter age discrimination at the workplace, I encourage them to approach TAFEP (Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices) for advice and assistance," she added.