In the Time of A Pandemic: Retrenched but Not Defeated    

By August 18, 2020Current

TL;DR – Our mature workers are treasure troves of experience. 

Layoffs continue to rise amid the raging economic storm.

Mr Raymond Leong, a former senior sales manager, who used to work in the tourism and travel industry, shared in an interview with The Straits Times that like many other firms in the tourism industry, the company was hit badly by the pandemic. He recalled how many clients had started cancelling events from mid-February. Mr Leong was eventually laid off from his job as a senior sales manager – a mere one and a half years after he joined.

“I felt I was treated unfairly.” It wasn’t easy in the initial weeks and it felt personal to Mr Leong.

Fortunately, he has since overcome the initial shock and now, he mostly works a 12-hour shift, starting work as early as 6.30am every morning as a private hire vehicle driver.

Although Mr Leong can make up to $180 on good days as a Grab driver, he still hopes to make use of his years of valuable experience in the travel industry and is on an active lookout for job opportunities. With more than 30 years of experience under his belt and a lot more to contribute, this 62-year-old gentleman is definitely not ready to retire!

“I think that some people just look at the CV, they might say, ‘oh he is too old’, and they might not give me a chance,” said Mr Leong. Nevertheless, he is trying to be positive about the situation.

The older workforce is a valuable source of human capital

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis, and many businesses are having to make very tough decisions. Jobs and employees’ livelihoods have been impacted severely. More can indeed be done to support the older worker and the Government and Labour Movement are putting in much effort in this area.

The Fair Consideration Framework by Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower for employers to avoid discriminatory hiring practices signals the Government’s stand on age discrimination at the workplace. Do you know that in March this year, five employers were penalised for placing job advertisements that discriminate against age, or showed preference for a particular age group for discrimination against senior workers? The Ministry of Manpower has since barred these employers from hiring foreign employees and from renewing the work passes of their existing foreign employees for 12 months.

Over the years, the National Trades Union Congress has consistently urged for more attention into job preservation and creation for older workers. It is more pressing now that mature workers have become more vulnerable under the current employment landscape.

The Labour Movement has been encouraging firms to relook workers’ key performance indicators and base them on milestones or outcomes instead. For these mature workers, the unions may also help to negotiate in terms of wages or having shorter work weeks so that companies will hold on to this group of employees.

Heng Chee How reminds us not to forget older workers as as we co-create the future

Even before the pandemic hit, Labour Member of Parliament, Mr Patrick Tay, has advocated more efforts to re-design jobs to make them easier, safer, and smarter for older workers, by leveraging technologies such as artificial intelligence or digitalisation. Mr Tay, who is also NTUC’s assistant secretary-general, said society has to be more accepting of senior workers. He shared of his experience meeting Mr Harbhajan, a 78-year-old gentleman at a Jobs, Skills & Training Forum. Mr Harbhajan Singh, who is an inspiring role model of active and productive ageing in the workplace continues to contribute his experience, skills, and expertise as a Senior Nurse Manager.

The Labour Movement has been pushing for employers to give older workers a fair chance at the opportunities in the market. Mr Tay believes that our mature workers, who are able and want to continue to contribute in the workplace, are treasure troves of experience and expertise, and more must be done to ensure that they are not overlooked or passed over due to ageist perceptions and discrimination.

In a society that needs to fully maximise its human capital, ageist stereotypes must be avoided.

The older workforce is a valuable source of human capital – there is no doubt about it.

The Government has committed extra support for employers who hire middle-aged and older Singaporeans. In a national broadcast on building a more cohesive society, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam urged employers to rethink their views on hiring middle-aged and mature workers – and step up to give them opportunities.

Mr Tharman has urged employers to step up to give mature workers opportunities.

A Concerted Effort to Support Older Workers

A collaborative effort to help middle-aged and mature Singaporean workers needs support from employers, to give middle-aged and mature Singaporean workers a fair chance to prove themselves.

Since the pandemic hit, the Singapore Government has been ramping up efforts to better prepare older jobseekers for their next steps through the SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways and SGUnited Skills Programme. These schemes are all headed in the right direction to help displaced or unemployed mature workers find jobs, upskill and reskill.

Mature workers have a part to play in this as well. They should actively seek out the upskilling or even reskilling opportunities so they can get themselves ready for new jobs when the economy picks up.

7 ways to upskill and prepare yourself for a post-Covid world

Upskilling ensures that skillsets won’t become obsolete, and it demonstrates that you take ownership when it comes to investing in your career and future. In the time of the Coronavirus, boosting your career trajectory and job security through upskilling seems more of a need rather than an option.


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Gabrielle Teo

Author Gabrielle Teo

I read lots, and I also spend an indecent amount of time trying to get my mostly unpopular opinions published. Oh, I argue a lot with fellow Singaporeans who complain incessantly about Singapore too.

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