Call for a new ministry of ageing to deal with emerging challenges

(From left) NTUC assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay; Singapore University of Technology and Design chief human resources officer Jaclyn Lee; PwC director of intelligent automation Abhijit Chavan; and Institute of Policy Studies senior research f
(From left) NTUC assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay; Singapore University of Technology and Design chief human resources officer Jaclyn Lee; PwC director of intelligent automation Abhijit Chavan; and Institute of Policy Studies senior research fellow Faizal Yahya at a discussion on the likely displacement in the employment market with the advances in artificial intelligence. ST PHOTO: ZHANG XUAN

It can tackle issues ranging from ageism to job displacement due to automation: Report

A new ministry of ageing, coordinating closely with the manpower and education ministries, could help the authorities resolve emerging challenges such as the displacement of mature professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) because of automation.

Such a ministry should have a division to mitigate the incidence of ageism in employment, says a report about the future workforce by Institute of Policy Studies senior research fellow Faizal Yahya.

Discussing the challenges of economic disruption today, as well as Singapore's strategies to retrain its workers, Dr Faizal wrote: "A ministry of ageing may be required to cover a gamut of concerns from manpower to healthcare."

Launched at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy yesterday, the report is part of a larger collection by the Association of Pacific Rim Universities, a network of research universities.

Dr Faizal said the tight manpower situation in Singapore is due mainly to an ageing workforce, low total fertility rate and greater restrictions on the inflow of foreign manpower due to social and political factors.

The report noted that greater restrictions placed on the hiring of foreign employees since 2011 have resulted in a growing reliance on local manpower in an ageing workforce.

Nonetheless, greater government coordination is needed to sustain mature workers in gainful employment, said Dr Faizal.

On education, he wrote: "The process of education is no longer linear, but a continuous cyclical process that follows industry cycles." He said links between industry and institutes of higher learning should be strengthened.

DIFFERENT MOTIVATIONS

Getting them motivated on a certain project... Seniority does not work. It does not work that they are formally bound to a particular type of competency.

What works for them is, what does it mean in society? What is the larger picture? They want to be part of a big picture… not guided by the same images of success that my generation or my father's generation had.

MR ABHIJIT CHAVAN, director of intelligent automation at PwC, on the motivations of the millennial workforce.


HOW JOBS WILL CHANGE

I think (climate change and sustainable development are) going to be top of the agenda for the tripartite partners...

With climate change comes new green jobs, with automation, driverless vehicles, electric cars, new technologies... the future of employment will undergo change. The future workforce has to be quick to be able to handle some of these new areas, new developments.

MR PATRICK TAY, NTUC assistant secretary-general, on how climate change drives his thinking on the transformation of work.


NOT DEVELOPING THE RIGHT SKILLS

It's a very wide spectrum, from professional services to private-hire vehicle drivers.

One of the biggest concerns is that if, in the course of doing that gig, they are not developing skills that will be in demand for the future... that's the thing that concerns us the most.

MR TAY, on gig economy workers.

In this, an amalgamation of the Manpower and Education ministries would support the shift in human capital trends.

If the same ministry would oversee the supply and demand for labour, such better coordination and timely government intervention would help policymaking, he said.

By working with a combined ministry, a ministry of ageing could help resolve challenges such as the large displacement of mature PMETs from certain industries.

He also recommended that the Ministry of Communications and Information establish a division working closely with the combined Manpower and Education ministries, and ministry of ageing, to deal with human capital needs of the infocomm sector.

The sector lacks workers in critical areas, such as data analytics and cyber security.

"Without critical infocomm human capital, the timeline for digitalisation of Singapore's economy will be further delayed," he said.

The World Economic Forum projected that 7.1 million jobs could be lost globally from 2015 to next year due to disruptive labour-market changes with the rise of the digital economy, although two million jobs would be created in fields such as information technology.

Singapore is placing bets on becoming a "smart nation" to stay relevant but its digital strategy, said the report, must also encompass the needs of its human capital to adapt and benefit from ongoing economic disruption.

At a panel discussion during the launch yesterday, Mr Patrick Tay, assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress, stressed the importance of inclusiveness in economic transformation.

He also noted that despite technological changes, there will be a transformation of jobs rather than losses, and more vacancies than before.

"The sheer speed... of changes is taking every country by storm," he said."The challenge is, how fast can we keep up?"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2019, with the headline 'Call for a new ministry of ageing to deal with emerging challenges'. Print Edition | Subscribe