Help wanted? Look to workers in their 50s

Elderly men seen at Raffles Place.
Elderly men seen at Raffles Place.PHOTO:ST FILE

I attended a public forum on the economy and jobs hosted by Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing on Oct 14.

While I was glad to hear him speak about SkillsFuture, and am confident the initiative will bear fruit to make our workers ready for future jobs, there is one area that bears discussion.

This is the issue of workers aged 50 and above who are still healthy and can work productively, but are not being re-employed or cannot re-enter the job market easily.

We are facing a curious problem where employers are saying that they cannot get enough local workers, and local workers are saying that they cannot get employment.

We need a new programme to alert employers to this "new" source of local workers. Perhaps we can call it "Employment Future", as it is important that employers fill the jobs of the present as well as the future.

The fact is that our population is ageing rapidly, and we will soon face the prospect of not having enough young local workers to fill the jobs available.

Why deny local workers who are older but willing to work?

Employers must be reminded of this demographic fact, and that employing local workers can be part of corporate social responsibility.

They can work with the National Trades Union Congress in its Place-and-Train programmes and welcome older workers back to work.

The Government can give them incentives to hire older workers and have policies and facilities to support this. Companies that hire these workers can also be recognised.

We have only human resource in Singapore. Leaving jobless a large group of healthy workers with the experience to contribute is a big social and economic mistake.

Loh Wai Poon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2016, with the headline 'Help wanted? Look to workers in their 50s'. Print Edition | Subscribe