Panel to look into better support for older workers

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo (above), speaking at her ministry's Work Plan seminar yesterday, noted that labour MPs have raised the concerns of older workers (right), who "have anxieties about the future, particularly as technology disrupts busine
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo (above), speaking at her ministry's Work Plan seminar yesterday, noted that labour MPs have raised the concerns of older workers, who "have anxieties about the future, particularly as technology disrupts businesses and jobs".PHOTOS: GAVIN FOO, ST FILE
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo (above), speaking at her ministry's Work Plan seminar yesterday, noted that labour MPs have raised the concerns of older workers (right), who "have anxieties about the future, particularly as technology disrupts busine
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, speaking at her ministry's Work Plan seminar yesterday, noted that labour MPs have raised the concerns of older workers (above), who "have anxieties about the future, particularly as technology disrupts businesses and jobs".PHOTOS: GAVIN FOO, ST FILE

Team of unionists, bosses and govt officials to review policies like retirement age, CPF rates

A team of unionists, employers and government officials has been formed to look at how to give older workers better support.

Among other policies, it will review the longer-term relevance of the retirement and re-employment ages, and examine if the Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution rates for older workers are adequate for retirement, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo yesterday.

Mrs Teo made the announcement at the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) Work Plan seminar, an annual event for all 1,600 staff of the ministry and its statutory boards to gather and chart the challenges ahead. It was held at the Singapore Expo.

Workers aged 50 and older make up one-third of Singapore's resident workforce, comprising citizens and permanent residents.

They "have anxieties about the future, particularly as technology disrupts businesses and jobs", she said, noting labour MPs had raised such concerns during this year's parliamentary debates, including the most recent on the President's Address.

Employers and workers interviewed by The Straits Times welcomed the move, saying it is timely amid Singapore's talent crunch and the longevity of its seniors.

Fujitsu Singapore country president Wong Heng Chew said his company's older workers are invaluable as they contribute with established skills and life experiences.

"We hope to see more legislative efforts, with insurers raising the age limit for insurance cover."

Mr Wong also suggested that lowering employers' CPF contribution rates for such workers could encourage more businesses to re-employ them. This could be balanced by giving them additional income tax reliefs, he added.

Last year, both the employer and employee CPF contribution rates for older workers were raised. For those aged between 50 and 55, the rates are now on a par with those of younger workers.

Workers who are older than 55, however, still have lower employer and employee contribution rates. Their total contribution rates range from 12.5 per cent to 26 per cent of their wages, compared with 37 per cent for those who are younger.

Singapore's statutory retirement age has been at 62 for 20 years, after it was raised from 60 in 1999.

Companies, however, must offer re-employment to eligible workers when they turn 62, to be renewed yearly until age 65. Last July, this ceiling was raised to 67.

Speaking to reporters later, Mrs Teo highlighted steps the Government had taken over the years for older workers.

Workers' aspirations to be captured

Besides re-employment, it has offered companies incentives to redesign jobs for older workers.

"These kinds of things you can't let up," she said. "The more you're able to look at the issues holistically, the more you're able to bring resources to bear. And the more you're able to build a consensus with employers and the labour movement, then the more progress you'll be able to make."

She also said forming the work group now, when there is no particular urgency, gives it time to mull over the important issues. It will talk to a broad spectrum of workers to understand and capture their aspirations in a "set of recommendations that would work for us".

Mr Peter Hamilton of Kelly Outsourcing and Consulting Group said the work group could also look at how to help companies integrate older workers into their workplace. He suggested, among other things, offering these workers flexible work arrangements, attractive remuneration and welfare benefits, training to keep them abreast of changes and mentoring programmes.

The work group will be chaired by MOM's Permanent Secretary Aubeck Kam. Its advisers will be Mrs Teo, labour chief Ng Chee Meng and Singapore National Employers Federation's Dr Robert Yap.

Dr Yap acknowledged that the CPF contribution rates can be a sensitive issue for employers intent on keeping costs down.

The work group, he said, will try to balance the various considerations for the common good.

"What we want to maintain is flexibility in employment practices so that companies can adapt and grow with their workers."

Postman Abdul Lah Haris, 65, welcomes any move that encourages companies to re-employ older workers like himself: "Many my age are healthy and fit for employment. Staying active through work is good for our well-being and, besides, we can share our experience with our younger colleagues."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2018, with the headline 'Panel to look into better support for older workers'. Print Edition | Subscribe