Skip to main content

Mindset change, enforcement to curb workplace ageism

  • The Straits Times (22 November 2017): Mindset change, enforcement to curb workplace ageism
  • The Straits Times (6 November 2017): Laws needed against workplace ageism

Mindset change, enforcement to curb workplace ageism
- The Straits Times, 22 November 2017

  1. We thank Mr Edmund Khoo (“Laws needed against workplace ageism”; 6 Nov) for his letter concerning workplace ageism.
  2. The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) take a serious view of employers who discriminate, including against older workers.
  3. It is an offence for employers to dismiss employees who are below 62 years old on grounds of age. Employers must also offer re-employment to eligible employees who turn 62, until the age of 67. If they are unable to, they must provide an Employment Assistance Payment (EAP) to help the employee tide over the period of time while searching for another job. Employers who do not do so face a fine of up to $5,000 and/or jail term of up to six months.
  4. All employers are also expected to abide by the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices that sets out fair and merit-based employment practices. Failing which, at the recommendation of TAFEP, they may be denied the privilege of employing foreign workers.
  5. Joint efforts by the tripartite partners and business community have helped to keep the incidence of age-related workplace discrimination low. In the past three years, TAFEP and MOM have, on average, received fewer than 80 age-related discrimination complaints and debarred 15 employers from hiring foreign workers each year for age-related discrimination.
  6. While laws and enforcement may deter discriminatory behaviour, the tripartite partners recognise that the key to eliminating workplace discrimination is to change individual mindsets. TAFEP focuses on efforts that can catalyse such changes. These include public awareness campaigns, as well as providing training and advice to employers and employees on fair and progressive employment practices.
  7. Our efforts have contributed to a steady increase in the employment rate for older workers. Today, Singapore has one of the highest employment rates for older workers compared to OECD countries. Our employment rate for workers aged 55 to 64 has increased to about 67.3% in 2016, compared to about 53.7% in 2006.
  8. Employees and jobseekers are encouraged to approach TAFEP ( or MOM if they encounter workplace discrimination. This will help TAFEP and MOM take timely action. Employers may also contact TAFEP for assistance and advice on implementing fair and progressive employment practices. The support from employers and fellow colleagues is important for fostering an inclusive workplace that values all employees.

Mrs Roslyn Ten
General Manager
Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices

Mr Ng Poey Eng
Deputy Director (Fair Consideration Office)
Labour Relations & Workplaces Division
Ministry of Manpower

Laws needed against workplace ageism
- The Straits Times, 6 November 2017

  1. I cannot agree more with Dr Yik Keng Yeong that many seniors at the workplace are not only as competent as their younger colleagues, but also understand their organisation, its clients and critical processes better (Stop regarding older workers as financial burdens; Oct 30).
  2. Changes to the Retirement and Re-employment Act represent official acknowledgement that most current white-collar work is knowledge-or technology-based. Therefore, employees are theoretically able to continue their careers well into their 60s and even 70s.
  3. However, urging companies to hire or retain mature staff is an uphill task. As employers are not required to provide reasons for terminating workers, seniors still do not receive protection from age discrimination.
  4. Based on my decades of experience in the corporate world, management is rarely, if ever, swayed by ethical convictions when it comes to hiring or retaining older staff. Discriminatory practices against older workers may even be seen as a necessary evil to resolve the growing problem of unemployment and underemployment of younger degree holders.
  5. Ageism is widely practised by many employers who consider older workers to be more costly to hire believe that it is tougher for them to acquire new skills, and would rather invest in training and development programmes for younger staff.
  6. It is hardly surprising that mature professionals, managers and executives are the most vulnerable group of workers since they cost their companies more to hire, possess skills that are more employer-specific and are less likely to re-enter the job market within a six-month period after being retrenched. The Government has acknowledged in Parliament that ageism is a problem in Singapore. However, it has long maintained that putting in place anti-discriminatory laws could increase business costs and undermine economic competitiveness.
  7. Apart from limited provisions protecting older workers or women from being fired because of their age or pregnancy, there is no legislation concerning discrimination in the workplace.
  8. Without legal powers to investigate cases or take errant employers to task, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices may be seen as an organisation that merely holds talks and sends out public awareness messages to advocate fairness in the workplace.
  9. Aggrieved workers would say that such an approach is an exercise in futility.