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Speech by Minister for Manpower Dr Tan See Leng at Launch of 2023 Action Plan for Successful Ageing

Dr Tan See Leng, Minister for Manpower, Ci Yuan Community Club

  1. For many of us who are still working, we look forward to the day we retire and no longer need to work. But emerging from many of our cohorts, many people have said that they want to continue to be engaged. Many studies have shown that the way to longevity and health, is the constant stimulation of the mind through social relationships like work, and continuous learning. Learning something new keeps the impetus, stimulation, and the incentive to look forward to, at every single milestone of our lives. Many studies have shown the two themes consistently come up. One, social relationships that you can gain from continually working and staying connected, and the other, continuous learning. This is very important moving forward, as our population ages, and our senior workers continue to form an ever increasing share of our workforce.
  2. This has long been an issue that the Ministry of Manpower has been concerned about. In 2019, the Government accepted the recommendations of the Tripartite Workgroup on Older Workers, and as Minister Ong alluded to earlier on, one of the most significant recommendations was to progressively increase the retirement and re-employment ages to 65 and 70 respectively by the end of this decade. Last year, we moved the retirement age up to 63 on 1 July 2022, and the re-employment age was raised to 68. We want to continue pushing this boundary. Many countries facing ageing populations have also tried to increase retirement ages, but find it difficult to do so. Fortunately, with a strong foundation of the labour movement represented by our tripartite partners, we have been able to come to an agreement to move this forward. We have started the ball rolling to raise the retirement age last year, and there will be more to come over the years.  
  3. As we embark on this roadmap to increase the retirement and re-employment ages, we will support our employers in creating more inclusive workplaces that maximise employment opportunities for our seniors. This is why we introduced the $1.5 billion Senior Worker Support Package in 2020. The two key schemes in this Package are the Senior Employment Credit (SEC), and the Part-time Re-employment Grant (PTRG).
  4. The SEC provides up to 8% wage offset to employers that hire Singaporean workers aged 55 and above, with higher support for workers in the older age bands.
  5. The PTRG also incentivises employers to commit to providing part-time re-employment opportunities for their senior employees. With that, we have expanded the work options for seniors who wish to continue working, but at a different pace and intensity.
  6. As of September 2022, more than $450 million of Senior Employment Credit has been disbursed, and this has benefitted almost 100,000 employers and more than 461,000 senior workers. More than 5,700 employers have also committed to a part-time re-employment policy under the PTRG. In the months ahead, this is expected to benefit more than 45,000 senior workers.
  7. We have continued to see our employment rate for senior workers improve. For seniors aged 55 to 64, it increased by 3 percentage points from 67.6% in 2019 to 70.6% in 2022. For seniors aged 65 to 69, it also increased by about 3 percentage points, from 44.6% in 2019 to 47.5% in 2022.
  8. I am pleased to announce today, with the encouragement of the Minister for Health and with the support of NTUC’s Secretary-General Mr Ng Chee Meng, and also Minister Desmond Lee we will be extending the SEC and PTRG until 2025, so that more employers and their senior workers can continue to benefit.
  9. This extended SEC will provide wage offsets to employers of Singaporeans aged 60 and above, and earning up to $4,000 a month. Amidst the economic uncertainty, we hope that this will continue to help alleviate wage cost pressures and support employers in hiring and retaining senior workers.
  10. Beyond incentivising employers to offer part-time re-employment, the PTRG will go a step further to encourage employers to offer two very important progressive workplace practices that will further support senior employment - flexible work arrangements (FWAs) and structured career planning (SCP).  We will share more details at MOM’s Committee of Supply debate, but I will just touch briefly on the importance of these two workplace practices.
  11.  First, FWAs have provided the flexibility that workers need in order to balance work and other responsibilities, such as caregiving, and is going to be key, and an important part to help our seniors who wish to continue working but perhaps in a more flexible manner. With more employers offering flexible work options, there is a higher chance that seniors can find work that is suited to their lifestyle needs. In most of our studies in OECD countries, the consistent theme amongst those with a high level of employment is the provision of flexible work arrangements and part-time work. In fact, many OECD countries have very high labour participation because of part-time work. We hope to have more employers adopt these progressive workplace practices here in Singapore.
  12. Second, on structured career planning. Many progressive employers already conduct regular career conversations with their employees to discuss their career and development plans, their progress, and they can synergise them with the company’s business transformation plans. In line with the recommendations from the Tripartite Workgroup on Older Workers, we want to make this a more prevalent practice, especially for mature and senior workers aged 45 and above, to better prepare them for multiple careers.
  13. Through structured career planning, employers can therefore map out future business needs and help their workers identify and develop the necessary skills to pivot with the company. It will also promote a growth mindset among their workers and encourage them to take greater ownership of their career development, and to learn new skills. This will then keep their skillsets relevant, their knowledge ahead in terms of industry needs, and extend their productive longevity.
  14. Given the importance of structured career planning, NTUC is also helping more companies to do so, through their Company Training Committees (CTCs). NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng, will share later on NTUC’s efforts on the CTCs and how it supports seniors in their training.
  15. The Government stands ready to support employers through schemes like the SEC and PTRG, but we hope employers can work with us and support us. Senior workers will also need to play their part. Employers can complement their business and workforce transformation efforts by redesigning jobs to cater to the abilities and strengths of our seniors. Putting on the other hat that I wear as a Second Minister in Trade and Industry, we have significant job redesign grants that ESG administers for these employers to help them redesign their workflow and companies, to cater to the employment opportunities for more of our senior workers. This is one of our key strategies, and we hope that our senior workers can take this with a renewed sense of hope, optimism and engagement, to continue to embrace change, stay ahead regularly and update your skillsets to stay relevant because there are significant and also very generous training subsidies to also help them to do so.
  16. Thank you very much.