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Speech at Age Management Seminar 2016

MOS Sam Tan, Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel

Dear Partners,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Opening     

  1. Good afternoon. I am very happy to be here at this year’s Age Management Seminar. I trust you had a fruitful time at the talks and sharing sessions this afternoon.
  2. This seminar is especially timely and relevant. As our population and workforce age, it is increasingly important for us to ensure that our older workers can work for as long as they want and are able to.
  3. We have made good progress on this front:

a)   Singaporeans are leading active work lives in their senior years. We have amongst the world’s highest employment rates for seniors. The employment rate of residents aged 55 to 64 has trended up over the decade, to a high of 67.2% in 20151. And in recent years, over 98% of local employees who wished to continue working were offered employment beyond 62. This will be reinforced when we raise the re-employment age from 65 to 67 from 1 July 2017.

b)   Workplaces are also adjusting to help older workers maintain their productivity. We are supporting this through government programmes such as WorkPro, and campaigns to promote mindset change through TAFEP. WorkPro was enhanced four months ago to provide further support to employers implementing age-friendly workplaces and flexible work arrangements.

Encourage workplace redesign to better support ageing workers

  1. We should not lose the momentum that we have built up over the last few years. Efforts to enable more older people to continue working should be strengthened.
  2. A large part of this effort involves redesigning jobs to improve employee engagement and productivity by managing the needs of the workforce. Redesigning jobs can be simple and cost-effective, and could involve modifying job tasks, responsibilities and work arrangements, as well as physical workspaces with the help of automation.  
  3. In the earlier session, you heard how Golden Leaf Curtain Centre, a SME with around 25 employees, of whom more than half are older workers, leveraged automation and technology to grow the business. Company size is not an impediment when it comes to job redesign. After embarking on extensive job redesign projects, including the installation of automatic sewing machines, Golden Leaf now has the ability to hire older workers who do not have sewing experience or may not have perfect vision.
  4. ComfortDelGro is another good example. The company provides regular health check-ups for its large number of mature employees, who make up more than a third of its workforce. ComfortDelGro has also raised the company’s retirement age to 67, ahead of the nation-wide change in re-employment age which will take place next year. At ComfortDelGro, older workers take active roles in mentoring and coaching their younger co-workers, imparting valuable advice and experience.
  5. There are other good examples from Lawrys’ The Prime Rib Singapore and TCG Rengo. These companies have adopted flexible scheduling to accommodate their employees’ lifestyles and invested in automation to alleviate manual work. This has benefitted the older workers who make up more than a fifth of each company’s workforce. I applaud all companies for their efforts in creating age-friendly workplaces for their older employees.

Resources to support adoption of age friendly practices

  1. Under the WorkPro 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. Since WorkPro was enhanced on 1 Jul 2016, more than 20 companies have tapped on the Age Management Grant, and more than 40 companies on the Job Redesign Grant. In total, more than 1,000 older workers aged 50 and above from these companies stand to benefit from the enhanced WorkPro. This is encouraging. We would like more companies to tap on these schemes to support your efforts in enhancing the productivity and engagement of your workforce.
  2. Beyond funding support through WorkPro, we have launched two key initiatives to help companies implement age management.
  3. To facilitate capability building, we have launched the Age Management @ Workplace Programme to provide an array of courses specific to managing older workers in Singapore. This programme is administered by UniSIM, in collaboration with MOM, the Centre for Seniors, Republic Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic, and supported by NTUC and SNEF. The topics taught are pertinent to the implementation of age management at the workplace, such as human resource management, sociological aspects of ageing, workplace safety and health, and job and task redesign. Generous subsidies are provided by SkillsFuture Singapore for these courses – for example, Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents can enjoy up to 95% course fee subsidies. I understand that the courses have made good headway. We have received positive feedback from the course participants for the inaugural run from July to August 2016. I would like to strongly encourage more companies and individuals to leverage subsequent runs of these courses to ramp up capabilities to better tap on our maturing workforce.
  4. The second initiative which has been launched is the Job Redesign Toolkit. The toolkit was developed jointly by SNEF, NTUC and MOM. It provides a user-friendly guide for companies planning for job redesign, and helps identify a range of cost-effective solutions to address the key needs of older workers, across various sectors such as hospitality, retail, logistics and F&B. Users of the toolkit have conveyed that it has been a useful resource, providing them confidence in rolling out job redesign solutions within their respective organisations. The toolkit comes with a user-friendly guide and users have conveyed that it is a useful resource in rolling out job redesign solutions at their workplaces. I would like to urge companies to take some time to look through the toolkit, and to tap on the funding support provided by WorkPro’s Job Redesign Grant to future-proof and age-proof your workplaces.

Closing

  1. We have made good progress in building age-friendly workplaces. Workers, companies and the Government can all play a part in keeping up the momentum.
  2. All workers, especially mature workers, should endeavour to continue upskilling and re-skilling themselves to keep current with the fast evolving job market. At the same time, employers must be mindful of our shifting demographics, and should put careful and creative thought into innovating and adapting to these challenges. Together with our tripartite partners, the Government is committed to supporting employers and strengthening capabilities in this area.
  3. I hope that you will take away useful insights on age management from today’s seminar, and embark on an action plan to create a more progressive and age-friendly workplace for your respective companies.
  4. Thank you.

FOOTNOTE

  1. Source: Comprehensive Labour Force Survey, MOM.
Last Updated: 02 November 2016