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Speech at Age Management Seminar “Creating Age-Friendly Workplaces”

Dr Amy Khor, Minister of State for Manpower, Conrad Centennial Singapore

Ms Diana Chia, President, NTUC

Mr Heng Chee How, Deputy Secretary General, NTUC

Mr Alexander Melchers, Vice President, SNEF

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen


  1. Good afternoon everyone. It gives me great pleasure to join all of you at today’s Age Management Seminar. I am glad that our tripartite partners have organized this seminar today as a platform for us to devote more attention to this important issue.
  2. As our life expectancy rises and birth rates decline, the median age of our citizen population will increase from 40 in 2012 to 45 by 2025. A large proportion of our workforce will consist of mature workers, and this will have significant implications for our economy and businesses. We need to make changes to the way we manage our manpower to maximise their contributions and potential. As our resident workforce starts to grow more slowly, we also need to think about how we can help our mature workers stay in work longer, and bring back the older residents who would like to rejoin the workforce.
  3. Some may see an ageing workforce as a business challenge or liability. However, with the right mindset and approach, an ageing workforce can be an asset. In today’s tight labour market, mature workers are a valuable source of manpower that employers can tap on to meet their manpower needs. Mature workers have a wealth of experience, skills and knowledge that can complement the skill sets of younger workers. By successfully managing and judiciously deploying both mature and younger workers in the workplace, employers can continue to harness a productive, dynamic and experienced workforce to further their business objectives. At the same time, conducive workplaces can also help older residents, who have been economically inactive, to successfully re-enter the workforce.
  4. Indeed, with the strong support of our tripartite partners over the years, we have seen significant improvement in the employment of our older residents. The employment rate of our residents aged 55 to 64 rose to a new high of 64% in 2012, an increase of almost 8 percentage points from 5 years ago.
  5. Employers, workers and the Government all have roles to play to maintain this momentum. We have put in place various programmes and policies to provide Singaporeans with the opportunity to work for as long as they can and want to. Re-employment, for example, is one of our key policies which allow able older workers to remain in employment beyond the statutory retirement age.
  6. Nevertheless, more can be done, not just at the national level, but also at the enterprise and individual levels. At the individual’s level, all workers, including mature workers, should make good use of our Continuing Education and Training system and the generous training subsidies to upskill and re-skill themselves.
  7. At the enterprise level, employers must be mindful of our shifting demographics, and become more innovative in their business and manpower models to adapt to this challenge. It is crucial for employers to create a conducive work environment for mature workers so that they can continue to contribute and perform their tasks productively. This is where everyone in the organisation has a role to play. Senior management needs to take the lead in driving this change; HR personnel must adapt company HR policies and practices to take into account the needs of an ageing workforce; line managers and supervisors need to adapt and improve their management skills to more effectively lead multi-generational teams; co-workers, too, have a big role to play by teaching and learning from their more mature colleagues.

    Building Age-Friendly Workplaces
  8. Many employers have taken steps to effect this change. The video shown earlier showcased some workplace practices that St Luke’s Eldercare and ThaiExpress Concepts Pte Ltd have put in place to foster an age-friendly workplace. I am heartened to see such efforts and I believe both the organisations and their workers have benefited from these workplace practices.
  9. Singapore Marriott Hotel is another employer which has taken the lead in adopting good age management practices. For example, in the Stewarding Department, a mature employee works 5 hours a day, 6 days a week. Through these flexible work arrangements, mature employees no longer suffer from fatigue due to long working hours.
  10. All new hires including mature employees undergo a structured on-the-job training programme to ease them into their job responsibilities, and through a buddy system, mature workers are paired up with younger colleagues who would assist mature workers with the more physically demanding tasks.
  11. In return, mature employees are actively engaged in training younger and less experienced colleagues to perform their tasks more efficiently, resulting in higher productivity.
  12. These age-friendly practices have helped Marriott to hire and retain more of its mature employees. Marriot has seen the results of their investments in creating an age-friendly culture. Not only do they have a more engaged and committed workforce, Marriott has also seen lower turnover amongst staff who are working on flexible work arrangements.

    Helping Employers Make This Change – WorkPro
  13. Marriott has also taken up the Age Management Grant offered under the recently launched WorkPro to further improve its age management capabilities.
  14. WorkPro is a programme developed by WDA and our tripartite partners to help companies build progressive workplaces and better adapt to an ageing workforce. Specifically, companies can tap on the Age Management Grant to attend relevant workshops and courses to learn more about managing an ageing workforce. Companies can also tap on the grant to implement age management practices like performance management systems or worker well-being programmes.
  15. Re-designing work processes or the environment is also important in helping workers perform their tasks in a more productive and efficient manner. Job redesign could be as simple as redefining the job role or changing of work schedules, to more sophisticated projects such as introducing automation and restructuring job processes.
  16. To support employers on this front, WorkPro offers a Job Redesign Grant to support job redesign projects that improve the employability and productivity of their mature workers. Employers who lack the know-how in job design can also tap on the Grant to train their staff to carry out job redesign projects.
  17. Our tripartite partners NTUC and SNEF have been reaching out to companies since the launch of WorkPro in April this year. To date, around 40 companies have come onboard WorkPro and $1.4 million worth of funding has been committed to help these companies improve their age management capabilities. 80% of these companies are SMEs, and NTUC and SNEF are working with many more companies who have expressed strong interest to see how WorkPro can help them meet their needs.
  18. I urge all employers to work towards creating a progressive, age-friendly workplace for their employees. To find out more about how WorkPro can help employers, you can approach our WorkPro programme partners, NTUC and SNEF, who will help to assess your organisation’s needs and provide advice on the grants that best suit your needs.

    Equipping Employers With the Know-how: Age Management Portal and Toolkit
  19. At today’s seminar, our tripartite partners are also launching two resource tools that provide employers with practical knowledge on Age Management.
  20. First, the tripartite partners have developed the Age Management Portal, which provides tips on implementing good age management practices, information on upcoming seminars and events, funding schemes including WorkPro, as well as other programmes that employers can tap on to implement age management practices.
  21. To complement the Portal, the tripartite partners are also launching the Age Management Toolkit, which will be distributed to everyone at the end of today’s seminar. The Age Management Toolkit covers seven key areas of Age Management which the tripartite partners have identified, as well as guidelines, checklists and case studies to help employers implement these age management practices.
  22. I would like to encourage everyone to take some time to have a look through these resources and make use of them to improve the age-friendliness of your workplace.

  23. We recognise that managing an increasingly diverse and ageing workforce is not an easy task. Nevertheless, many companies have started to realise the importance of adapting to this change, and their experiences have shown that good age management practices bring about important benefits for both businesses and the workers. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage more companies to start thinking carefully about how you can make changes to your HR policies and work processes to better adapt to a changing workforce profile. Together with our tripartite partners, we will continue to support employers and build up capabilities in this area.
  24. Today’s seminar is part of these efforts and I hope that by the end of today’s session, you will walk away with useful knowledge and insights on age management and embark on an action plan to create a more progressive and age-friendly workplace.
  25. Thank you and I wish all of you a fruitful seminar ahead.