Forum: Skills-building critical to age-fair employment

I refer to the Forum letters "Seniors should not stand in the way of younger staff" by Mr Francis Cheng, and "Rights and fairness play a role in retirement and re-employment" by Mr Paul Heng (both Nov 8).

I believe that Singapore and Singaporeans will do better when we address age-fair employment through the lens of "enablement" more than that of "entitlement".

By "entitlement", I mean the notion that one is somehow owed the obligation of being employed or being promoted just because one is young or one is senior.

I agree with Mr Heng that in the absence of being able to deliver value on the job, one's youth or seniority is not going to help much or for long. And those who are currently younger have a vested interest in seeing to the continued involvement of mature workers in the economy. To take a zero-sum view to the younger-older subject matter is ultimately self-harming.

Yet, to ensure that workers of all ages can continue to deliver value on the job amid endless changes to business models, job designs, work processes and technology, employers, unions and workers must play an active role in timely, purposeful skills-building.

Companies with a better and correctly skilled workforce will be more competitive. Their ability to outdo the competitors and grow will translate into more jobs and promotional opportunities for all who work with them. This is the critical "enablement" for companies and workers of all ages to move away from a zero-sum mindset and take actions that lead to sustainable win-win outcomes.

The NTUC's network of company training committees is a mechanism that will power this "enablement". They will give more of our mature workers the chance and choice to continue contributing at work and grow with their younger counterparts as they do so.

Heng Chee How

Deputy Secretary-General

National Trades Union Congress

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