More support for employers who join national effort to hire middle-aged, older workers: Tharman

A programme to open up new pathways for mid-career job seekers will also be scaled up in the months to come. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

SINGAPORE - Employers who hire middle-aged and older Singaporeans will get extra support from the Government, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Wednesday (June 17).

A programme to open up new pathways for mid-career job seekers will also be scaled up in the months to come. This will give them opportunities to work at companies and public sector agencies, and prepare for more permanent jobs in the future, he added.

In a national broadcast on building a more cohesive society, Mr Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, urged employers to rethink their views on hiring middle-aged and mature workers - and step up to give such workers opportunities.

Everyone benefits if it becomes the norm to hire from this group, he added, noting that the labour force is much older today than it was in the late 1960s when the British announced their troop pullout, and in the mid-1980s when Singapore went through a recession.

Less than 30 per cent of the labour force was 40 years or older then. Today, that proportion has doubled to 60 per cent, and many workers are in fact 50 years or older.

This is why there is now a concerted effort to help middle-aged and mature Singaporean workers, he added.

"This is, and must be, a national effort. And it needs new thinking among employers, to give middle-aged and mature Singaporean workers a fair chance to prove themselves," said Mr Tharman. "Employers need to reorient their management philosophies, and their human resources and talent management practices.

"No Singaporean who is willing to learn should be 'too old' to hire. And no one who is willing to adapt should be viewed as 'overqualified'," said Mr Tharman, who chairs the new National Jobs Council set up to help Singaporeans stay employable in a challenging economy.

"We will work closely with the business associations to bring all employers into this national effort."

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The Manpower Ministry will also watch companies' hiring practices, to ensure that they comply with the Fair Consideration Framework, he added.

In the fifth of six national broadcasts on Singapore's post-coronavirus future, Mr Tharman said the Government's priority is to save jobs and prevent people from being out of work for too long.

The country has faced conditions of high unemployment before, and is in a much stronger position to address this challenge today, he added.

Singapore's unemployment rate exceeded 6 per cent on two occasions - when the British began withdrawing their troops in the late 1960s, and again during the severe recession of the mid-1980s.

Today, Singapore's economy is more diversified, its people are far more skilled, and investors have greater confidence in the country.

But its labour force is also much older now, Mr Tharman said.

This group of older workers has had fewer educational opportunities than younger generations of Singaporeans, he said.

"But they are a hard-working and vigorous generation, who have accumulated valuable skills and experience over the years, and still have many good years ahead of them," he added. "We will spare no effort to help them carry on with their careers in the most productive jobs they can do, so that they can continue to provide for their families and contribute to Singapore."

Everyone is better off if it becomes the norm to hire middle-aged and older workers, Mr Tharman said.

"Our workers will be able to build on their skills and experience and we will have a more capable and motivated workforce, with a strong Singaporean core, that every employer can rely on."

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