Be creative to get the most out of older workers

Mr Simon Owen Khoo Kim San gave a list of reasons why many employers are reluctant to hire older workers ("Difficulties in hiring older workers"; last Friday).

How much of these are prejudices and how much are true?

The positive outcomes of engaging the out-of-work retirees should be happier (and thus more productive) elders and, at the national level, an overall increase in productivity.

How are these achieved? By deploying seniors in jobs that suit them.

When we talk of seniors having more experience and wisdom, we do not necessarily refer to just mundane work experience.

Seniors have more life experiences.

For instance, the Singapore Tourism Board's efforts in training seniors to be tourist guides would make use of the seniors' better knowledge of local history and geography.

Many service-oriented jobs may be better suited to seniors.

For instance, a watchdog or audit role will be a better fit for seniors, who tend to be more careful.

We need to identify new vocations which older workers can do, rather than retrain them to fill traditional jobs.

At the national level, to be able to put just one retiree back into the workforce will add to the gross domestic product.

There are no trade-offs.

Instead of looking at an ageing population as a problem, employers should view it as an untapped manpower resource.

If we are prepared to be truly entrepreneurial, we should be able to identify many areas where seniors can be deployed.

The Straits Times last Friday reported on the streamlining of the domestic logistics sector ("Plans to boost efficiency of logistics sector").

At the end of the logistics supply chain is a "last mile" delivery to every corner of Singapore.

Wouldn't seniors living in the "last mile" destination be the most suitable neighbourhood candidates to complete this supply chain?

It involves less travel time and cost for the senior, allowing him time for personal pursuits.

We need to be more imaginative and think out of the box in a tight labour market.

Geoffrey Kung
Reverse Cooperative
(Re-Empower Valuable Economic Resources of Seniors and Elders)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2015, with the headline 'Be creative to get the most out of older workers'. Print Edition | Subscribe