A concerted push is under way to ensure Singaporeans in their 40s and 50s can progress in their careers and access fair opportunities.
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo yesterday detailed measures to help this group, amid a backdrop of uncertainty brought about by the coronavirus outbreak.
The outbreak would make it harder to keep unemployment down to the relatively low levels of recent years, she added.
The Government's first priority is to prevent large-scale job losses and a reversal of salary increases for low-wage workers.
"These unfavourable conditions demand a united response from all of us," said Mrs Teo.
At the same time, it must not neglect future challenges, she added.
Mrs Teo said the Government is investing about $1 billion to boost the employment prospects of Singaporeans over the next five years, through the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Support Package, SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit and enhanced Productivity Solutions Grant.
"They are a clear commitment to ensure Singaporeans have fair opportunities to progress at every stage of their working lives," she said.
She added that more than half of the 31,000 local job seekers placed in jobs last year through the Adapt and Grow initiative were aged 40 and above, and nearly a third were aged 50 and above. The share is even higher for rank-and-file workers.
Mid-career workers are being supported to close the skills gap. Since 2016, place-and-train schemes such as professional conversion programmes have helped nearly 14,500 Singaporeans, she added.
In the past two years, more than 2,000 professionals, managers, executives and technicians were also reskilled and redeployed within the same companies before they could become redundant, she said in response to Mr Patrick Tay (West Coast GRC).
The Government aims to double the number of mid-career workers who enter new jobs through reskilling programmes to around 5,500, by 2025, she added.
Mrs Teo said the Government will also ramp up train-and-place programmes, which do not require employers to commit to hiring trainees upfront, but equip participants with in-demand skills.
Place-and-train participants receive full salaries or allowances while they reskill.
To support employers, the Government will seek to bring down the cost of recruiting and training mid-career job seekers, said Mrs Teo.
From April 1, the Government will raise salary subsidies for all workers aged 40 and above on place-and-train programmes to 90 per cent, up from 70 per cent.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat had already announced in the Budget statement a hiring incentive for bosses who hire workers aged 40 and above through certain reskilling programmes.
The Productivity Solutions Grant will also be enhanced to provide up to 70 per cent funding for companies to engage job redesign consultants to ensure jobs are more attractive.
Most of the remaining costs can be paid using the new $10,000 SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit, which was announced during the Budget.
Nominated MP Douglas Foo had flagged concerns from workers and bosses about setting aside time for training.
Mrs Teo said that for companies with a clear plan to transform their business, the Ministry of Manpower will consider allowing them to hire additional workers during a transition period.
Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing also acknowledged the concerns of mid-career workers during the debate on his ministry's budget yesterday.
Those who are employed are worried about their job longevity, given the keen job competition, while those who have been retrenched are worried about being able to find a job that matches their skill sets and pay expectations, he said.
He urged tripartite cooperation in this area, with businesses offering more employment and upgrading opportunities, workers making an effort to reskill, and the Government supporting both groups.