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Speech at Age Management Seminar 2015

Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Health, Raffles City Convention Centre, Fairmont Singapore

Ms Diana Chia
President of NTUC

Mr Alexander Melchers
Vice President of SNEF

Mr Ng Cher Pong
Chief Executive of WDA

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

  1. Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us at the Age Management Seminar 2015. This is the third time the tripartite partners have come together to share on how we can foster progressive workplaces and better manage a mature workforce.

  2. Age management is increasingly important because our population is ageing rapidly. I’m sure you must have heard this many times. The median age of the resident labour force today is 43, compared to 40 just a decade ago and it will continue to rise. With more than one in five resident workers aged 55 and above1, it is important to tap on the wealth of experience and skills of our older workers, who will make up an increasing share of the workforce.

  3. Together, we have made good progress in the last decade:
    a) The employment rate of residents aged 55 to 64 increased from 47% in 2004 to a new high of 66.3% last year.2 
    b) Median gross monthly incomes of older resident workers aged 55 and above grew by 2.6% per annum in real terms over the last 5 years – higher than the increase for residents in general.3 
    c) Nearly all local employees who turned 62 in the year ending June 2014 were offered re-employment.

    Much of this progress is due to the tight labour market, and equally important, the extensive tripartite efforts to facilitate the employment of older workers.

  4. We can do even more. Age is still a prevalent consideration in some employers’ hiring practices. The training participation rate for older workers is also lower compared to that of other workers. As such, older workers face more barriers to good employment outcomes than younger workers, and their skills and experience are often undervalued in the labour market. The theme of this year’s Seminar – Unleashing the Potential of a Mature Workforce – is therefore especially timely and relevant.

  5. Our policies and programmes aim to address these barriers, and a big part of the solution is better age management. This is the message we hope to drive home in today’s seminar. We urge employers to create progressive workplaces where all employees can achieve their potential without being disadvantaged by age. Businesses should recruit people based on their skills and competencies, and not age.
  6. The Tripartite Committee on Employability of Older Workers is focusing much of its efforts on reviewing and driving interventions to help older workers overcome the workplace barriers which stand in the way of maximizing their potential. This is a major effort, and everyone has a role to play. Today, I would speak on two key areas in this effort which is better age management practices and developing skills at every age.

    1 – Better Age Management Practices

  7. First, we need to implement better age management practices. Thus far, we have provided incentives to employers who take concrete steps to build their understanding of age management, improve their company’s age management practices, and embark on projects to redesign jobs to accommodate older workers. Under WorkPro’s Age Management Grant and Job Redesign Grant, employers can receive funding of up to $20,000 to develop their age management capabilities, and up to $300,000 to redesign jobs. To date, close to 1,600 companies have tapped on the Age Management Grant and the Job Redesign Grant, benefitting more than 35,000 mature workers. We would like many more companies to tap on these schemes and make this effort to better manage their older workers.

  8. Let me share two examples of what companies have done to improve their age management practices to spark some ideas:

    a) Established in 1959, Certis CISCO Pte Ltd is a leading security organization in Singapore. More than 12% of their employees are aged 50 and above. The company advocates parity in managing a multi-generational workforce, by providing equal training and development opportunities for their employees, regardless of age. Older workers are highly valued for their experience and assigned to mentor and coach younger employees. Employees who retire are re-employed without any downward salary adjustment, and have their job scopes redesigned to meet their needs.

    b) Another example is Jurong Bird Park Pte Ltd - Asia’s largest bird park. The company was amongst the first to adopt TAFEP’s Fair Employment Guidelines, and signed the TAFEP pledge in 2007 as a signal of its commitment to promote and implement fair, responsible and inclusive employment practices. The company develops individualised training road-maps through one-on-one discussion with its employees as part of its effort in advocating life-long learning. It has also set up a sports and recreational committee aimed at promoting health awareness and fostering cohesiveness and camaraderie amongst its multi-generational workforce.

  9. To further encourage employers to adopt progressive age management practices, we started the Age Management Recognition Award last year to recognise companies who have gone the extra mile to create an age-friendly workplace. Today, Certis CISCO Security Pte Ltd and Jurong Bird Park Pte Ltd will be receiving this award, and deservedly so. Congratulations.

  10. Another aspect of age management involves redesigning jobs to improve productivity while managing the needs of the workforce. This could involve modifying the type of tasks and skills required, and making sure that the tasks are meaningful, to bring about a more engaged and productive workforce. The process needed to implement such job re-designs will naturally vary among industries and companies, but it is an important pursuit.

    a) Tai Tong Ah Company Pte Ltd is an SME which manufactures Traditional Chinese Medicine. Some of you may be familiar with its house brand products such as Tai Tong Ah’s herbal oil and Rumagon. The company tapped on the WorkPro Job Redesign Grant to purchase systems and machines with age-friendly features to simplify the production process and enhance workplace ergonomics to create a healthier work environment for their workers, 60% of their workers are aged 50 and above. The job redesign project has also helped streamline work processes that resulted in productivity gains and manpower savings of 100 man days a year, reduced production wastage and improved job quality. Ms Seng Ah Moi is a production supervisor who has been with the company since its incorporation in 1978. The company’s innovative effort in job redesign has enabled workers like Ms Seng, who has more than 35 years of experience, to continue working at 70 years of age.

  11. Age management is a relatively new field in Singapore. To ramp up capabilities, we have been working with the tripartite partners on a few new initiatives. We have engaged Institutes of Higher Learning, industry experts and training providers to create a curriculum that is specific to managing older workers in Singapore – covering core topics such as HR management, sociological aspects of ageing, workplace safety and health, and job and task redesign. We are also working with industry experts to accredit consultants in the age management domain to better address companies’ age management issues. We plan to roll out these initiatives in the near future. A practical toolkit to guide companies on redesigning jobs for a mature workforce is also in the works.

  12. The tripartite partners are continuing with our efforts to help employers adopt fair practices, and reinforce positive perceptions of older workers. For instance, we launched the “Tap into a Wealth of Experience” campaign at our Age Management Seminar last year. This was a significant national campaign that reached out to a wide audience on the value and skills that experienced workers bring to the workplace. In fact, just last weekend, we featured 12 older Singaporeans in a special supplement called the “Heartbeat of a Nation”, to applaud their contributions in nation-building.

  13. As a society and in our corporate culture, we still have some way to go before we are fully age-blind. We have to continue tackling ageism, wherever and whenever it manifests itself. While employers are free to decide who they want to hire or retain, such decisions should be based on the quality of the individual – his skills and experience – rather than his age. Another area to facilitate the employment of older workers is allowing workers to upskill and reskill at every age.

    2 – Developing Skills at Every Age

  14. An integral part of good management is about investing in the skills development of all employees, and ensuring that all employees are given fair opportunities to pursue lifelong learning, regardless of their age. The SkillsFuture movement provides avenues for employers to upskill and reskill their workers. We urge companies to support the skill development of their employees, including the older employees.

  15. For example, the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Enhanced Subsidy will be introduced by WDA later this year. Singaporeans aged 40 and above will enjoy higher subsidies of up to 90% of the course fees for a wide range of training programmes. The Mid-Career Enhanced Subsidy scheme provides additional funding support that enables mid-career individuals to upskill and reskill, so as to remain competitive and job-ready. So in this case, you can say being old is gold because when you’re older, you get more subsidies.


  16. I would like to end by reiterating that our tripartite partners are fully committed to helping companies with their age management efforts, so as to maximise the skills and experience of our older workers. Done well, it is a win-win-win outcome for businesses, workers, and the overall economy. I trust that this seminar will continue to raise awareness of these issues and galvanise more companies nationwide to adopt good age management practices.

  17. In closing, let me wish all of you a most fruitful seminar ahead. Thank you.

Refers to employed residents. Source: Comprehensive Labour Force Survey, MOM.
2 Source: Comprehensive Labour Force Survey, MOM. 
Data pertain to gross monthly income from work (including employer CPF contributions) of full-time employed residents, excluding full-time National Servicemen. The compounded annual growth rate was derived for the period of 2009 to 2014 based on incomes deflated by Consumer Price Index for all items at 2014 prices. Source: Comprehensive Labour Force Survey, MOM.