Budget debate: Job redesign, mindset change needed to better support older workers

The MPs said older workers provide a source of talent that can be tapped.
The MPs said older workers provide a source of talent that can be tapped.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - More initiatives are needed to support older workers, such as redesigning jobs and pushing for a mindset change among employers and staff, MPs said on Thursday (Feb 25).

This is especially important, as these older workers provide a source of talent that can be tapped, they added.

Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson) said: "Ageism is unfortunately rather rooted in Singapore. Despite an ageing workforce, ageist mindsets can be found in many workplace settings.

"We still encounter seniors who want to work but struggle to secure suitable and adequate employment... They are often the first to go and last to be hired."

She added that there are negative stereotypes of older workers that they are slower, weaker, more rigid or less productive. These hinder them from being hired and discourage their professional development.

"Our ageing workforce means that employers have to accept the reality of an increasingly mature manpower supply. Hence, our default thinking should be to find ways to leverage senior workers strengths and not find ways to undermine or get rid of them."

Ms Tin suggested that companies review their human resource policies and make it standard operating procedure to hold conversations with their senior workers on meaningful re-employment or deployment.

"To be fair, there is a need for renewal so that younger workers have a chance to rise up and accumulate their own experiences. But where senior workers are still fit and keen to work, companies should discuss options that allow senior workers to preserve their work and compensation," she said.

She added that firms can also adapt their working environment, job design and processes to support senior workers. This is possible with technology such that productivity will not be affected.

For the workers who would like to change their jobs, a centre can also be set up to match senior job seekers to new opportunities, she suggested.

Mr Yip Hon Weng (Yio Chu Kang) noted that while resources have been allocated to support senior workers, a mindset change among employers and workers is also necessary.

"Concerns about employing seniors can be overcome by redesigning jobs and the physical workplace. But this is something that companies find cumbersome to do... Seniors must, at the same time, continue to be willing to adapt and persevere despite the challenges that they may face at work."

Another way to help seniors find work could be through micro jobs, he added. These generally refer to temporary and task-based roles.

For example, they can be carers for other frail seniors, medical escorts or provide handyman services. "The Government can play a role to promote such micro jobs by offering integrated search and listing platforms to match the demand and supply based on location," he suggested.

It can also consider providing accreditation and training for those who want to take up these micro jobs.

Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) also asked for a further extension of job credits and wage supplements to support senior workers and low-income workers.

"We must continue to help middle-aged and senior workers who had lost their jobs to reskill and move on to new careers," he said.