SINGAPORE - A government grant to help companies make jobs physically easier for older workers has seen "better-than-expected" take-up, and the Manpower Ministry is considering whether to extend it beyond June this year.
More than 1,750 companies have used the enhanced Job Redesign Grant since July 2016 and this has benefited about 20,000 older workers, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo on Thursday (Feb 14).
"We'd like to encourage more companies to come on board and take advantage of the job redesign programme to improve the work environment for their seniors. Quite often, when they improve the work environment for the seniors, it's not just the seniors who benefit, the rest of the workforce also benefits," she added.
The ministry had aimed to get 700 companies on board and help 3,000 workers over three years with the grant, which was updated in 2016 after its introduction in 2013.
The grant gives companies up to $300,000, or up to 80 per cent of the costs of projects to create physically easier, safer and smarter jobs for older workers aged 50 and older.
Speaking to reporters after meeting staff at Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa whose jobs have been improved, Mrs Teo said that projects to redesign jobs may not require heavy capital expenditure.
"Today, much of the technologies are readily available. It's a question of how you marry the technology with the work processes and make it work for the company," she added.
Mrs Teo said MPs who spoke in Parliament on Wednesday raised interesting suggestions on supporting seniors in employment. This is something very high on the ministry's list of priorities, she said.
She also said she will give an update on the work of the Tripartite Workgroup on Older Workers, formed last year, as well as the amount of funding disbursed through the Job Redesign Grant, during the upcoming debate on her ministry's budget.
The ministry, in determining whether to continue the grant beyond June, is looking at whether senior workers benefit from the programme. Its officials are also visiting companies to look at how workers feel about their redesigned jobs.
Mrs Teo also disclosed the review of another grant: the Work-Life Grant.
The intention is to strengthen it to encourage more companies to implement flexible work arrangements, she said.
The Job Redesign Grant is part of the WorkPro scheme, which aims to help local workers and encourage age-friendly workplaces. In July 2016, the cap for the grant was doubled to $300,000 for projects targeting older workers.
Rasa Sentosa, for example, sought the grant for two new projects last year.
One involved tagging all towels with RFID (radio frequency identification) so that they can be counted easily, and the other installed buzzers in the poolside umbrellas so staff can identify guests who need service more easily.
One in 10 of the hotel's 373 staff is aged at least 55, said its human resources director Darren Lim, adding that his team was looking for technological tools to make older workers' jobs easier and lighter so that they can continue to work, while improving overall efficiency.
"In Singapore, good workers are very precious, and good workers who want to stay with you are even more precious," he said.
Mr N. Xavier, 52, who mans the poolside towel stand, said on busy days he and his team had to manually count about 1,000 towels before and after they are sent to the laundry. Now, a wave of a wand over the towel cart and the count is done automatically. More importantly, the count will be accurate, he added.
"If I am not sure how many towels we have, we would have a hard time catering to all the guests during peak hours. Now I can keep track of the numbers and schedule a delivery if they are starting to run out," he said.
"I can do this work for many more years."