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Programmes in place to support mid-career and senior workers

We thank Mr Eric Yip Kok Leong (Help retrenched young seniors get back into the workforce, 21 Feb), Mr Robert Cheng (Ageism: How stereotyping stands in the way of hiring seniors, 23 Feb), and Ms Ho See Ling (Put more thought into how training can get good jobs for mid-career workers, 29 Feb) for their feedback calling for better employment support for mid-career and senior workers.

As we press on with our economic transformation, jobs will continue to evolve. The Government’s approach is to invest heavily in skills development of the local workforce to enhance every Singaporean’s long-term employability.

We also keep the labour market tight through our foreign workforce policies to ensure that businesses can access the talent that they need, but at the same time invest in training local workers.

We support Singaporeans through the SkillsFuture Career Transition Programme and Career Conversion Programme which cover both upskilling and employment facilitation for job seekers.

The Career Conversion Programme has been enhanced to support those in more senior positions. The recently announced SkillsFuture Level-Up Programme will provide greater support for mature workers aged 40 and above to reskill and upskill to improve their job prospects.

For Mr Yip, SkillsFuture Singapore has reached out to him and the training provider to address the issues raised.

Besides skills upgrading, we also lean forward to assist those who are retrenched. The Taskforce for Responsible Retrenchment and Employment Facilitation works with companies to provide retrenched workers with immediate assistance, such as career matching services by Workforce Singapore (WSG) and NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i).

The Ministry of Manpower is developing a scheme to provide temporary financial support for involuntarily unemployed Singaporeans as they look for a new job. More information will be announced later this year.

Overall, results of our efforts have been encouraging. In September 2023, the resident unemployment rate was stable and low at 2.8%, and the resident long-term unemployment rate remained low at 0.7%.

Everyone has a part to play in making workplaces inclusive. We agree with Mr Cheng and Ms Ho that we need to collectively tackle ageism, even though we have a relatively high labour force participation rate for seniors among Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.

The upcoming Workplace Fairness Legislation will strengthen protection against age discrimination in the workplace.

But mindset change cannot be legislated. With an increasingly ageing workforce, we must recognise the invaluable contributions that senior workers can make and embrace them as an importantpart of our workforce.

Rachel Lam
Director, Workforce Strategy and Policy Department

Leong Wei Jian
Director, SkillsFuture Division

Help retrenched young seniors get back into the workforce, 21 Feb, Forum, pB5, The Straits Times

In the 2024 Budget, there seems to be a lack of emphasis on one group of vulnerable Singaporeans who have been retrenched.

The number of retrenched workers has increased recently and is expected to rise further due to companies looking at higher profitability and conducting right-sizing exercises.

The Budget is giving top-ups of $15,000 for Institute of Technical Education graduates aged 30 and below when they complete a diploma programme. Those aged 40 and above pursuing a second diploma will get a monthly training allowance of up to $3,000 for 24 months.

Will it make sense for those in their 60s to pursue a second diploma and get hired (hopefully) after graduation?

I am sure those in their 60s will not get a similar scheme to obtain a second diploma and get hired (hopefully) after graduation.

I was laid off last year when I was 59 years old. I have applied for numerous positions without success. Employers do not want to hire older people with a short “runway” as they say it is difficult to integrate them into their generally younger teams. This is also the case when I look for work at government agencies.

I attended a three-month full-time SkillsFuture Career Transition Programme in September 2023, hoping to get a job placement after the training. Unfortunately, the class was left on its own to look for jobs after we completed the programme, which was described as a “train-and-place programme”.

Most unemployed seniors face financial difficulties, especially if we have to support the family.

Most of us would prefer to get a job rather than get handouts from the Government. I hope the Government will look into helping young seniors get back into the workforce.

Eric Yip Kok Leong

Ageism: How stereotyping stands in the way of hiring seniors, 23 Feb, Forum, pB5, The Straits Times

I empathise with Eric Yip in his letter, “Help retrenched young seniors get back into the workforce” (21 Feb).

It is more difficult for older people to find jobs because of all the stereotyping about their capacities, focusing more on what they can no longer do as older people instead of looking at the upside of being older.

Media is such a powerful tool, and it continually promotes youth in so many ways, such as a cream that will make your skin look younger and movies that celebrate being young and in love for the first time.

In contrast, the commercials for older people focus on haemorrhoids, arthritis, memory loss and other ailments that plague old age.

Economically, experience only goes so far, so the employer sees that as a case of diminishing returns after a certain point. There is another commonly held belief that older people are too entrenched in their ways, and will be less susceptible to new ideas or to new technology. That is not altogether unfounded, but it does not apply to everybody.

Then there is the distinct possibility of ill health. Employers must ask themselves: “Is this person a good investment? Will they need time off for illness? Can I depend on them?”

Ageism is a prevalent global problem that contributes to poor health, social isolation, cognitive decline and high economic costs. Younger workers often assume that the old have had their turn and should make way for the younger generation.

As the number of young seniors and older adults continues to increase, finding ways to minimise ageism will become more important.

Layoffs – which is just another euphemism for retrenchment – that target workers of certain age groups and lack of promotions for older workers are also clear signs of ageism.

We should always remember our older workforce, not just for the contributions they have made to Singapore, but more so for what they can still do.

Robert Cheng

Put more thought into how training can get good jobs for mid-career workers, 29 Feb, Forum, pB5,The Straits Times

It is heartening to observe the parliamentary debate on the SkillsFuture Level-Up Programme. Among the programme’s key objectives is supporting mid-career Singaporeans so as to boost their prospects in the current job or pivot into a new career.

My female colleagues and I faced career disruption during the pandemic. We then proactively enrolled and completed digital skills courses to reset our career path. But we were greeted with brutal ageism practices from various multinational corporations as well as small and medium-sized enterprises.

I believe the SkillsFuture Level-Up Programme announced in the latest Budget will be effective only if workers who have completed the training programmes can land themselves a suitable career for the next phase of their working life.

A basic short-term training programme may be insufficient for older mid-career individuals to secure a job as they are competing with a younger generation with better academic qualifications. Mid-career workers risk remaining unemployed despite using up the $4,000 in subsidies.

More thought needs to go into how the training can lead to good jobs for these mid-career workers as there are only a limited number of job offerings. We need to address the deficiencies of the career matching programme in its current form to improve outcomes for the individuals using it.

All stakeholders, including employers, must support the well-intended measures in the Budget to rehire mid-career workers and those who have gone the extra mile to elevate their skills to stay relevant and contribute to the country’s economy.

Ho See Ling