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Protecting and supporting seniors who face discrimination

  • The Straits Times (20 February 2020): "Limited protection against ageism at workplace"
  • The Straits Times (26 February 2020): Commentary: "Ageism is an economic hazard" 
  • The Straits Times (2 March 2020): "Discrimimation againts older people is a social hazard"

Protecting and supporting seniors who face discrimination - The Straits Times, 4 March 2020

  1. We thank Ms Chong Ning Qian, Mr Vikram Khanna and Mr Tristan Gwee for raising their concerns on age discrimination.
  2. Singapore’s employment laws protect employees against discriminatory employment practices, including wrongful dismissal on discriminatory grounds such as age, ethnicity, pregnancy or family responsibilities. At the same time, we expect employers to abide by the principles of merit-based employment outlined in the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices, including for hiring and promotion.
  3. Anti-discrimination laws in other countries have not necessarily led to employment outcomes better than those in Singapore. For example, the employment rates of seniors aged 55 to 64 in the UK and US, which have anti-discrimination legislation, are lower than that in Singapore.
  4. In 2019, 68% of all residents aged 55 to 64 were working, up from 57% in 2009. The unemployment rate of residents aged 50 and above is about 3% and has been consistently lower than the national average. Less than 1% of residents of the same age profile said they were not looking for work because they did not believe they would be successful in landing a job.
  5. In January 2020, we stiffened penalties against discriminatory employers by revoking their work pass privileges for a longer duration. We have also named errant companies to deter others. We urge those who face workplace discrimination to come forward to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) or Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP).
  6. Beyond laws and guidelines, MOM and TAFEP have also undertaken efforts to promote fair employment practices and the employability of older workers.
  7. For those who need help to return to the workforce, MOM and Workforce Singapore (WSG) offer job matching services and programmes under the Adapt and Grow initiative. One such programme is Career Trial, where jobseekers can try out jobs and receive training allowance while assessing new careers. Jobseekers who need career assistance can visit WSG’s Careers Connect and NTUC-Employment and Employability Institute’s career centres.

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

    Lim Tze Jiat
    Director, Workplace Policy and Strategy Division
    Ministry of Manpower

Limited protection against ageism at workplace - The Straits Times, 20 February 2020

  1. A recent survey on ageism at the workplace revealed that age discrimination is a prevalent problem experienced by both younger and older generations in Singapore.
  2. From interviews done by the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) with older female family caregivers, we understand that the concerns and impact of ageism are amplified for caregivers.
  3. The women we interviewed, all aged between 45 and 65 years old, experienced negative changes to their employment status once they became caregivers to their older family members. At the time of the interviews, only five out of 22 were in full-time employment.
  4. Many were worried that their old age would be a disadvantage when they try to re-enter the workforce after their care recipient dies. Also discouragingly, some had experienced age discrimination, for example, being ignored at job fairs by recruiters or dismissed by interviewers because they were visibly old.
  5. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) stated last year that on a national level, those providing caregiving (excluding childcare) to family members or relatives had been out of work for a median time period of nine years. Three-quarters of such caregivers were aged 50 and above. Their ability to re-enter the job market after not being employed for close to a decade is, unsurprisingly, limited, as job conditions would have changed significantly and their skills may have become obsolete.
  6. In Singapore, there is limited protection against age and other forms of discrimination.
    For instance, some laws provide protection against dismissal based on age, but do not apply to other areas such as hiring and promotion.
  7. The Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices also recognise age as one of the grounds on which discrimination may occur.
  8. MOM may take administrative action against recalcitrant employers, including curtailing their work pass privileges, but these actions do not provide for a legal right to remedy for workers, for example, reinstatement or compensation.
  9. To protect the rights of all workers, we strongly encourage enacting comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, to prohibit discrimination on the basis of age, gender, family responsibilities, disabilities, race, and so on.
  10. Legislation defines a clear, legal responsibility for employers to not discriminate, and provides for legal remedies for discrimination.

    Chong Ning Qian

Discrimination against older people is a social hazard - The Straits Times, 2 March 2020

  1. I read with concern that the elderly population is over-represented by those who were unemployed as highlighted in Associate Editor Vikram Khanna’s commentary (Ageism is an economic hazard, Feb 26).
  2. According to the report, the greatest contributing factor to the unemployment and underemployment of older workers is ageism.
  3. Nearly 20 years ago, in a report Into The Millennium Of The Older Adult: Releasing Potentials And Erasing Prejudices, compiled by the Gerontological Society in 2001, several recommendations were put forward on how we can change the mindset and perceptions of our seniors.
  4. Much progress has been made in many areas to remove and erase prejudices and barriers towards older persons but ageism still exists today.
  5. Ageism leads to discrimination. It is not just an economic hazard. It is also a social hazard.
  6. It includes every false assumption and belief that we hold that is not true of an older person.
  7. Every member of this society needs to engage in a critical self examination of his personal beliefs and values towards seniors.
  8. Families, companies and public institutions need to be more inclusive.
  9. When we discriminate against an older person today, we are also discriminating against future generations of older persons.

    Tristan Gwee