Recognise older workers' ability to contribute

A senior worker using a handphone outside Raffles Place MRT Station, on June 6, 2017.
A senior worker using a handphone outside Raffles Place MRT Station, on June 6, 2017.PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore's population is ageing rapidly. By 2030, the ratio of working age citizens to those past the regular working age is expected to fall to around 2.4.

This is especially worrying as Singapore's main resource is human capital. With fewer people working, there will be a shortage of qualified workers, resulting in declining productivity, an increase in labour costs and reduced international competitiveness.

One way to ease the problem is to encourage older workers to remain in or rejoin the workforce - which the Government has been advocating. When older people work, not only do they remain financially independent, but they are also able to lead active and more fulfilling lives. This, in turn, reduces social problems, such as the high suicide rates among the elderly.

However, there are many stereotypes about older workers, like how they are unable to keep up in a fast-paced workplace, unwilling to share knowledge and skills, and cost more than younger workers. As a result, many are unable to find jobs, or are offered manual work that requires long hours and pays very little.

More should be done to end this stereotyping. We should recognise older workers' knowledge and experience, and find ways to provide them with meaningful employment.

The efforts of firms committed to engaging and retaining older workers, like SingPost, should be lauded. We can implement a flexible retirement policy to give equal opportunities to older workers. Enabling skilled older workers to remain in the workforce ensures they will continue to add value to Singapore's economy.

Deon Soh XuanHui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2019, with the headline 'Recognise older workers' ability to contribute'. Print Edition | Subscribe