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A Statistical Profile of Older Workers

Benefiting from the strong economic performance, a record high proportion of the older population are in the labour force and in employment.  Both the participation and employment rates of older males in Singapore now compare favourably to countries in the region and beyond.  While older females have also made significant gains, their participation and employment rates are still relatively lower than in many developed countries. These are the key findings of an occasional paper on "A Statistical Profile of Older Workers" from the Ministry of Manpower's Research and Statistics Department. 

2.   Encouraged by the increased job opportunities amid strong economic growth over the past two years, a record high proportion of the older population aged 55 & over are now participating in the labour market.  The labour force participation rate for older males and females was significantly higher in 2006 than a decade ago. This was helped also by the extension of the retirement age to 62 years in 1999.  Specifically, the participation rate among resident males aged 60 to 64 rose substantially from 49% in 1996 to 63% in 2006. Among females in the same age group, the rate rose from 15% to 26%. 

3.   The labour force participation rate of older males in Singapore compares favourably to countries in the region and beyond.  For instance, the participation rate of males aged 60 to 64 in Singapore at 63% in 2006 (53% in 2005) is significantly higher than in Hong Kong (45%), Taiwan (47%), Germany (41%), Netherlands (31%), France (19%), the United Kingdom (56%) and the United States (59%).  It is exceeded only by Japan, South Korea and Sweden where around seven in ten males in the same group were economically active.  Similarly, the proportion of men aged 55 to 59 in the labour force in Singapore is either higher or comparable to many countries, except for Japan and Sweden.  In contrast, despite the improvement in the labour force participation rate of older women in Singapore, their rates still lag many of the developed countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, South Korea and Japan.  A comparison of the employment rate for the older population across countries yields similar findings to that of the labour force participation rate.  The employment rate for older males in Singapore in 2006 is generally higher than in many of the countries compared (e.g. 60% of males aged 60 to 64 were employed in Singapore compared with 42% in Hong Kong, 46% in Taiwan, 36% in Germany, 29% in Netherlands, 18% in France, 54% in the United Kingdom and 57% in the United States), except for Japan (67%), South Korea (67%) and Sweden (61%).  In contrast, the employment rate for older females in Singapore still lagged many countries, despite our recent gains. 

4.   Older persons aged 50 & over made up close to one-quarter (24%) of the resident workforce in 2006.  Reflecting their relatively less educated profile, the majority (68%) of older workers were employed in lower-skilled jobs such as cleaners, labourers & related workers (18%), plant & machine operators & assemblers (16%) and service & sales workers (15%).  These occupations also registered an above-average incidence of older workers especially for cleaners, labourers & related workers where more than half (53%) were aged 50 & over.  The incidence of older workers was also high among working proprietors and plant & machine operators & assemblers (both 40%).  In contrast, only a small proportion of residents working as professionals (10%) or associate professionals & technicians (14%) were aged 50 & over.  

5.   More than three out of four (77%) older workers were employed in the services sector in 2006, with the proportion higher among older females (84%) compared to older males (74%).  Administrative & support services (42%) and hotels & restaurants (38%) had the highest incidence of older workers among their resident workforce in 2006 where around four out of every ten workers were aged 50 & over.  At the other end, the incidence of older workers was lowest in information & communications (8.3%), professional services and financial services (both 14%).

6.   Older workers were more likely to be self-employed (26%) than the younger cohort (12%).  Many of the self-employed are working proprietors, taxi drivers and hawkers/ stall holders.  Older workers are also more likely to work part-time than those younger.  Part-timers made up 11% of employed residents aged 50 & over compared to only 4.9% for those aged below 50.

7.   Older workers have a lower incidence of switching jobs.  In 2004 , about one in ten (11%) employed residents aged 50 & over switched jobs in the last two years.  This was considerably fewer than about one in five for those in their 30s and one in four for those younger.

8.   Among full-timers, older workers tend to work longer hours compared to those younger.  The proportion of full-time employed older residents working at least 50 hours a week (35%) in 2006 was higher compared to those in their 30s (30%) or younger (23% for those aged 15 to 24 and 27% for those aged 25 to 29).