Conversations about re-employment should start when workers are in their 40s: Josephine Teo
SINGAPORE: Employers need to have early conversations with workers - as early as when they are in their 40s - about retirement and re-employment to ensure a smooth transition, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo on Wednesday (Aug 28).
This includes reskilling and redeployment for older workers to allow them to stay employed for longer.
Mrs Teo’s comments come after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally speech on Aug 18, where he announced that the Government will be raising the retirement and re-employment age.
The current retirement age of 62 will be progressively raised to 65 in 2030. The re-employment age of 67 will also increase to 70 by then.
Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions rates for workers above 55 years of age will be raised to the full rates, tapering down after 60 and levelling off at 70. The first adjustment is set for 2021 with gradual increases subsequently.
READ: NDR 2019: New retirement, re-employment ages of 65 and 70 by 2030; higher CPF contributions for older workers
Speaking to CNA938’s Arnold Gay and Yasmin Jonkers, Mrs Teo said: “One of the things that came out in the discussions is – the employers said – if my older workers are going to stay with us longer, we cannot wait until they are 62 to start this conversation about reskilling, or redeployment.
“That conversation has to start a lot earlier, not even at age 60, not even at age 55. Probably even in their 40s, we should be thinking as to how they can be meaningfully deployed 10, 15 years down the road.
“Because the skills development doesn’t happen overnight, and you also have to motivate the workers.”
This was one of three areas that employers should be prepared to make adjustments in when hiring older workers, said Mrs Teo during the interview.
Employers should also consult unions about adjusting healthcare policies after the introduction of MediShield Life, Mrs Teo said.
“Companies are concerned about healthcare costs. They have, in the past, put in place group hospitalisation policies. These were very good benefits for the workers.
“But the policies were put in place before MediShield Life … so there’s some duplication here. It’s actually quite useful for the employers to engage their unions to see whether some adjustment can be made,” she suggested.
The third area that employers should look at was the physical demands of jobs for older workers.
“Some degree of mechanisation and some reorganisation of the workflow can enable older workers to be more meaningfully deployed across a whole range of activities,” Mrs Teo said.
TIMELINE FOR IMPLEMENTATION
During the National Day Rally, Mr Lee noted that it would take the Government 10 years or so to implement the full changes to retirement and re-employment ages and CPF contributions.
This is because there are a lot of adjustments needed by employers to make this transition, said Mrs Teo.
“One of the things the workgroup was very mindful of is that if they up the speed too much, then employers did not have enough time to adjust, then the whole process could backfire.
“You could, in fact, end up impacting the employability of older workers in a big way, because employers are not ready. And that what could happen is that from employer standpoint – don’t even wait till 62 or 63, or 64, 65. Even in the 50s, employers are already a little bit concerned.
“The workgroup decided that it was important to let the employers have a clear sense of where the endpoint would be, and how far and how fast we could arrive there. So that they would make the preparations, and that would be the most balanced way of trying to achieve the objectives,” Mrs Teo said.
Employers were mostly willing to hire older workers, as long as they can meet the requirements of their new jobs as businesses transform, she added.
“This creates a need for us to ensure that in terms of the training, in terms of the skills, we put in place the correct support measures to enable the employers to help their workers make the transition,” she said.
CHANCE TO STAY ACTIVE
Mrs Teo also noted that older workers wanted to continue working as a way of staying active and through a desire to contribute more to society.
“Most people by this time of their careers feel that they have already fulfilled their responsibilities to family,” she said.
“Some of them have made the (mind-set) shift that what they really want to do is to help the younger colleagues succeed … The employers who are able to create those opportunities, I think they then earn for themselves very loyal staff.”
The workgroup also found that older workers would prefer to work with reduced intensity, such as shorter working hours, fewer days or a lighter load.
“If you look at it from the employers’ standpoint, (older workers are) an untapped pool of manpower. If we were somehow able to organise work to allow job sharing (for two workers) ... both are happy and you kept both in the workforce,” she said.
“In Singapore, I think fortunately we are in a good position where we can actually make plans for the future,” she added.