Long-term underemployment will certainly cause workers to lose the confidence and drive to update their skills and stay relevant.
Underemployment can be classified into two types: voluntary and involuntary.
Workers who are voluntarily underemployed are those who decide to take a drastic pay cut and look for employment which offers them a less hectic or stressful job, perhaps so they can have more work-life balance and spend more time with their family.
Workers who are involuntarily underemployed, on the other hand, have no choice but to accept or perform jobs for which they are overqualified.
Many could be forced into these jobs because of organisational downsizing, retrenchment or forced resignations.
For instance, we have heard of PhD holders becoming taxi drivers, and managers taking on jobs such as security guards, cooks or delivery drivers.
I believe these workers form the bulk of the underemployed here. They tend to lose out financially, economically and socially.
The various programmes under the Government's Adapt and Grow employment-support initiative are grossly insufficient and ineffective in helping these workers.
Workers need around 24 to 36 months to undergo training or re-skilling in order to find a better job.
During this time, they will be in need of some extra help financially.
Financial incentives could be given to tide them over this period of training so they will be able to find meaningful employment at a decent wage later.
Workers could be given wage supplements of several hundred dollars, based on their age and employment history.
It would be a sad day indeed if workers are unable to be gainfully employed or advance in fulfilling their dreams.
Chong Kim Hwa