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Response to Adjournment Motion on Senior Employability

Ms Gan Siow Huang, Minister of State for Manpower


  1. I thank the Honourable Member Ms Jessica Tan for sharing her insights on this very important topic of senior employability, and the findings from the engagements and focus group discussions that the PAP Senior Group had conducted.
  2. Indeed, as our seniors lead longer and healthier lives, we need to collectively shift our mindset as a society. It is important to see this as a golden opportunity to tap on the accumulated human capital of our seniors.
  3. The Government has long placed strong emphasis on improving the employability of our senior workers, and we have made good progress. Employment rates for senior workers have continued to rise, even during the pandemic! From 2019 to 2021, the employment rate for those aged 55 to 64 increased from 67.6% to 69%, while those aged 65 to 69 increased from 41.7% to 49.0%. This is comparable to top OECD countries, and reflect the fact that our senior workers are valued by employers.
  4. Perhaps another reality here is that we have a tight labour market in Singapore, and an ageing workforce. Companies that are progressive and preparing to future-proof their businesses know that they must tap on the growing pool of senior workers if they want to meet their business needs for manpower and talent in the long term. 

    Retirement and Re-employment

  5. It is heartening to hear that seniors themselves want to continue to work. Together with our Tripartite Partners, we have put in place a roadmap to support that. We have raised the retirement and re-employment age to 63 and 68 respectively, from 1 July this year. Our goal is to increase it to 65 and 70 respectively, by 2030. This will support more senior workers who wish to continue working, to do so.
  6. Even as we work towards this goal, we are mindful that there must be sufficient flexibility, to avoid unintended consequences. Under the retirement and re-employment framework, the onus is placed on businesses to re-employ senior workers, but there is some flexibility to adjust re-employment terms, so that businesses can provide employment opportunities to our senior workers while remaining competitive. If an employer is unable to identify a suitable position to re-employ the senior worker in, he can provide an Employment Assistance Payment in lieu of re-employment as a last resort. This is to help the worker tide over while he or she seeks alternative employment. These flexibilities are the outcome of close discussions between tripartite partners, and seek to mitigate the concerns raised by Ms Jessica Tan on whether re-employment policies may inadvertently disincentivise the hiring of senior workers.
  7. We will continue to study international best practices and ensure that the retirement and re-employment framework remains robust and relevant for Singapore.

    Skills Training and Meaningful Employment

  8. Beyond just employment, I agree with Ms Jessica Tan that we should also make sure that senior workers are employed in meaningful roles. The key to this is reskilling and upskilling our senior workers, so that they continue to remain relevant as the economy evolves.
  9. Ms Jessica Tan raised an important point, that with improving longevity and more frequent economic change, our career paths may no longer be so linear, but rather, we may need to be prepared to make a few career switches throughout our working lives. Senior workers in particular, may wish to, or even find themselves needing to transition into new roles or new growth sectors.
  10. For seniors who are currently out of the workforce and require assistance in job search, Workforce Singapore and  NTUC’s e2i, provide career matching services. We have put in place skills upgrading eco-system to support career switches, through the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Support Package and more recently, SkillsFuture Career Transition Programme. We also provide enhanced salary and training support of up to 90%, through reskilling programmes such as Career Conversion Programmes (CCPs) which support employers to upskill their new hires, including senior employees, to take on enhanced job roles, including in digital fields. There is a Career Conversion Programme for example,  for In-House Digital Communication Professionals, which equips individuals with digital marketing skills to take on in-demand job functions such as brand development. In addition, there are volunteer Career Advisors to provide their peers with sector- and occupation-specific career advice, and connect them to relevant Government programmes and services.
  11. To complement these moves, we provide structural support through schemes such as the SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit, which encourages employers to invest in the training and capability building of their employees. Ms Jessica Tan has raised several other pertinent points that can support the upskilling of senior workers. We will definitely take her feedback into consideration as we continually refine our training support ecosystem. In particular, we are studying how we can support Singaporean mid-career workers in enhancing their skills more substantially during the later stages of their working lives.
  12. Ms Jessica Tan has also suggested that there must be a culture of continuous learning at the workplace. I fully agree. Indeed, this is critical not just for senior workers, but also for other workers. While the Government can and will continue to provide the necessary resources and support, employers must also see the value of adopting a “plug-train-play” approach, rather than a “plug-and-play” approach.
  13. This is why we have been working with companies to provide quality training to their employees at the workplace. We have expanded the reach of the National Centre of Excellence for Workplace Learning (NACE) to uplift the workplace learning capabilities of companies, especially SMEs. To-date, more than 1,700 companies have benefited from the programmes offered by NACE.
  14. I agree with Ms Jessica Tan that we must continue promoting different pathways for workers to progress. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Different businesses have different needs, and so do different senior workers.
  15. A ground-up approach is thus needed, where employers take ownership and conduct regular and structured career conversations with their senior workers. This is one of the key aspects of what the NTUC’s Company Training Committees (CTCs) seek to do; bringing together the employers, HR and employee representatives to identify gaps and opportunities, and align the training plans for its workforce to its business transformation roadmap. MOM has also worked with the Singapore National Employers Federation to develop a structured career planning resource guide. I encourage more employers to utilise this guide and take a more deliberate approach in workforce planning.

    Ageism and a Multi-generational Workforce

  16. As our population ages, multigenerational workplaces will increasingly be the norm. As Ms Jessica Tan has pointed out, a multigenerational workforce allows us to harness the experience and expertise of senior workers, which can contribute to better productivity. As the saying goes, “姜还是老的辣” (the older the wiser). Senior workers bring a different value-add and complement the younger workers as they often have more work experience and knowledge of the trade.
  17. We all have a role to play in creating effective multi-generational workplaces. Senior workers themselves play an important role in shaping perceptions. It may not be easy, but they should be open to job role changes and picking up new skills, to keep pace with technological advancements and changes in the ways of working. The Government will always support our senior workers on this journey.
  18. Employers should adopt age-friendly workplace practices, such as job-redesign to make tasks and workplace environments more age-friendly, providing flexible work arrangements and practising fair employment practices. Business leaders and HR have an important role to play in shaping a company culture that is age-friendly.
  19. The Tripartite Partners have taken steps to nurture age-friendly work practices.
  20. The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Practices, or TAFEP in short, runs complimentary workshops to guide employers on putting fair employment practices into place, and I encourage employers to approach TAFEP to find out more. I would also encourage more employers to adopt the Tripartite Standard on Age-friendly Workplace Practices, which specifies a set of good age management practices and recognises progressive employers that implement them.
  21. Several members in this House have expressed concerns with ageism affecting job opportunities and career progression for senior workers.  The government does not tolerate age discrimination at the workplace.
  22. I would like to reiterate that all employers are expected to abide by the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices (TGFEP). As announced last year, a Tripartite Committee is looking into enacting workplace fairness legislation. This will broaden the range of measures and penalties available to address workplace discrimination, including age discrimination.


  23. As a society, we must collectively rethink our attitudes towards ageing, and see it as a boon, not a bane. The Government will continue to provide the fullest support to enable our seniors to have longer careers, and contribute meaningfully in multigenerational workplaces. We can’t do this alone. We need a strong eco-system of employers, unions, training institutions, and most of all, employees – young and old, to play a part to enable Singaporeans to harness the benefits of longevity.
  24. Thank you.