Danger in monetary work scheme becoming a new norm

The latest initiative to support jobless professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) has left me with mixed feelings ("Wage support for jobless S'porean PMEs"; last Thursday).

I applaud the Government for initiating the Career Support Programme, aimed at financially encouraging employers to hire older Singaporean PMEs who have been jobless for at least six months.

My concern is over the use of a monetary strategy to resolve an issue whose root causes are not related to business costs.

Most employers do not favour hiring older workers because of their perception that they are generally "over the hill", not because of their salary costs.

All jobs come with a perceived monetary value. So long as employers have a salary structure that compensates employees based on the market value of the jobs they are looking to fill, it does not matter if the incumbent is an older PME or otherwise.

Having worked with older PMEs who have been outplaced, I would say that many of them have the experience, maturity and energy levels to be able to add value to their next employer.

On the flip side, though, the single most common shortcoming is that many of them have not been through any form of developmental training or upgrading courses for a good number of years prior to losing their jobs.

Most of these job seekers can also do better if they learn the basics - how to write a decent resume, sharpen their interview skills, and present themselves well as a "good product". Having a positive mindset and being self-confident are also keys to interview success.

In the longer term, a better solution is to continue to encourage employers to change their mindset towards older job seekers.

Singaporeans must also make a stronger effort to take charge of their own careers, and invest in their own personal and professional development.

The danger in this monetary-focused scheme is that it may become a new norm.

Paul Heng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2015, with the headline 'Danger in monetary work scheme becoming a new norm'. Print Edition | Subscribe