Inclusivity can help S'pore mitigate shrinking workforce, help older workers thrive: Gan Siow Huang

Minister of State for Education and Manpower Gan Siow Huang said more can be done to maximise the potential of older workers. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Developing strategies for managing diversity and inclusion in firms can help Singapore tap the "longevity dividend", Minister of State for Education and Manpower Gan Siow Huang said on Tuesday (Feb 8).

Referring to a concept that means countries can overcome the challenges of an ageing population and shrinking workforce by investing in the health and education of their people, Ms Gan said more can be done to maximise the potential of older workers to continue contributing and to create an environment for them to thrive in.

She noted that older workers are a key part of Singapore's labour force, with about one in four workers aged 55 and above in 2020.

Ms Gan encouraged employers to put in place systems and structures to help every worker acquire critical core skills - such as critical thinking, effective communication and learning agility - so that they can keep up with the rapidly transforming business environment. In turn, they can support companies to perform better, she added.

"Although skills acquisition is ultimately an individual endeavour, the role that businesses play in upskilling our workforce cannot be understated," she told about 150 attendees at a virtual masterclass on human capital.

The Government should also build a conducive environment that provides the supporting structures for these efforts, said Ms Gan at the event organised by training provider Human Capital (Singapore) and government agency Workforce Singapore.

There are schemes in place to support the employment of older workers, and to help them grow their retirement assets as well as continue learning, she added.

For example, later this year, the retirement age will shift to 63 from 62, and the re-employment age will shift to 68 from 67. These will rise to 65 and 70, respectively, by 2030.

There are also reskilling programmes targeted at mid-career workers aged 40 and above.

"We should embrace the multi-generational workforce by recognising the contributions of all employees - older workers bringing their wisdom and life experiences and complementing the skills of younger workers who are often more technologically savvy and possess newer skills," said Ms Gan.

Being able to build inclusivity was also a key skill highlighted by SG Enable chief executive Ku Geok Boon in a panel discussion at the masterclass.

Organisations that build inclusivity into their company culture will be able to look at how to optimise the work experience of older workers, beyond finding solutions in one specific domain such as technology or processes, she said.

SG Enable provides services for people with disabilities.

The panel was discussing ways to build business resilience, such as through developing critical core skills in the workforce.

Panellist Liu Feng-Yuan, who is vice-president of business development at artificial intelligence (AI) firm Aicadium, said that besides being able to understand technology and work as a team, employees also need to develop growth mindsets, which means they try to put themselves in situations where they can learn and get better.

This benefits employees, who feel fulfilled at their jobs and gain mastery, as well as employers, as it means their human capital is also enhanced, he said.

Among leaders, arts company ImaginArts founder Mervyn Goh said a key quality needed is empathy, which allows them to see the bigger picture.

Deutsche Bank managing director Bernd Starke also cited the importance of having a "speak up culture", where in times of uncertainty, employees are willing to highlight areas for improvement that the company can address quickly and move on.

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