An Ageing Workforce: Looming crisis or booming opportunity?

By March 2, 2023Current

TL;DR Thoughtful preparedness is needed to ensure jobs and older workers are ready for each other.


Supporting older workers to stay employable for as long as possible through training, job redesign, enhancing hiring support schemes and strengthening retirement adequacy were some of the points raised by Labour MPs during the ​​ Committee of Supply (COS) debate in Parliament yesterday (1 Mar).


In his COS speech Mr Desmond Choo, NTUC’s Assistant Secretary-General, spoke about the challenges faced by Singapore’s ageing workforce and the need to prepare for an economy with an older population. He drew similarities between Singapore and China, whose population had reportedly declined for the first time since 1961, causing the Chinese markets to wobble.


By 2030, in Singapore, around one in four citizens will be aged 65 and above. As of June 2022, 880,000, or roughly 1/3 of our resident workforce, is 50 years and above, and nearly half of that is 60 years old and above. 


With the shrinking workforce, our economy would become less vibrant as our workforce shrinks and potentially “might face hollowing out of certain industries such as in Land Transport, F&B, Tradesman, and plant & machine operators,” he said.


Mr Choo urged the government to support the ageing workforce as an economy-wide priority and proposed these moves:

  • Legislating Workplace Fairness to tackle ageism
  • Include within each Industry Transformation Map (or ITMs) a pillar on creating and transforming “age-friendly” jobs. 
  • Redesign jobs to match our ageing workforce
  • Redesign work structure by renewing and enhancing the Part-Time Re-employment Grant 
  • Scale up flexible work arrangement (FWA) efforts by allowing for voluntary take-up by companies or incentivising companies with progressive practices.
  • Calibrate its foreign workforce framework within the context of an ageing workforce
  • Create specialized centres that focus on helping our older workers manage their employment needs. 
  • Establish research centres dedicated to developing assistive technology, identifying jobs that may suit senior workers, and developing appropriate training to transition them into such positions so older workers can stay employed longer. 
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Mr Choo cited the example of Hello Senior, a job placement agency in Japan which focuses on workers aged 60 years and above. 


He said, “The service also works with employers to understand their needs and preferences and match them with suitable older candidates. As geriatrics is a speciality within medicine, silver placement centres can have its special place in our placement ecosystem. “


He added, “Our ageing workforce is also an opportunity to advance assistive technology to help workers work for longer and safer. Our transport operators have already put in place driver monitoring, collision avoidance and driver alertness technology. Many of our bus captains are able to work well into their late 60s and beyond. There are other industries, especially those with a significant number of older workers, that we must deep dive into. Scaling such efforts is critical.”


Touching on retirement adequacy, Labour MP Fahmi Aliman said the rising cost of living may negatively impact the value of retirement savings, making it challenging for seniors to meet basic needs. In addition, healthcare costs that increase with age may further impact retirement savings. 


In his speech, he said, “Given the importance of retirement adequacy, especially in an inflationary environment, can MOM provide an update on the measures that will be put in place to protect the employability of the seniors and strengthen their retirement adequacy?”


Echoing Mr Fahmi’s point on retirement adequacy, NMP Abdul Samad, also the General Secretary of the Union of Power and Gas Employees (UPAGE), calls for the Government to continue supporting workers with their CPF contributions beyond 55 years old to ensure that workers have enough for retirement.

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As enabling dignified ageing among older workers is a multifaceted issue that requires a comprehensive approach, we need a whole-of-society system that values the contributions of older workers by creating a more inclusive and supportive work environment that benefits everyone. Dignified ageing is not only a moral imperative but also can be an opportunity to counter the looming crisis of an ageing workforce. 


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Author Hannah

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