More employers hiring older workers

An office worker

SINGAPORE: The 2010 labour force survey has found that the employment rate for older workers aged 55 to 64 years old has gone up to 59 per cent.

This was after the rate held steady at 57.2 per cent over the last two years during the economic downturn.

This was revealed by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Lim Boon Heng.

Mr Lim said this showed employers recognised the contributions of older employees and are hiring and retaining them.

He added that companies which hire these mature and old workers have three top concerns, namely the rising health and insurance costs, the physical abilities of older workers and the ability of these workers to adapt to change.

"There is a lot of hard work that needs to be done to make it happen and that is why we opted for re—employment legislation than just legislating the retirement age," said Mr Lim.

91 per cent of unionised companies — or nearly 1047 firms — have committed to re—employment.

Two organisations which have been hiring older workers, The National University Hospital and PUB, received the International Innovative Employer Award this year.

NUH will be implementing more worker friendly changes next year.

Clara Wee, Director of Human Resources at NUH, said: "Instead of renewing their contract one year at a time, we will allow the head of department to consider renewing it for three years, capped at the age of 67...in terms of benefits, instead of basing their annual vacation leave to that of new staff, they continue to carry forward their leave entitlement.

"We are also going to extend medical benefits to their spouses...there is also no need to review their workplan every year as we want to give them a sense of permanency in their work."

At PUB, 40 per cent of its staff are mature workers and they receive pre—retirement counselling one year before reaching their retirement age.

"It is important for them to understand that while in PUB, they have to continue to upgrade themselves so that they are always employable by the organisation, whether it is competency training or formal education," said Lawrence Tan, Director of Human Resources with the PUB.

"So it is not [just] at 61 that we are looking at them, we look at them from the day they join us [so] that they have this attitude of continuous learning, upgrade their skills and be able to adaptable to new areas of work."

NUH and PUB were named by AARP, a US—based non—profit organisation which represents nearly 40 million people aged 50 and above, and the Singapore Council for Third Age as being among 15 of the world’s best employers in adopting innovative human resource practices to engage older workers.

—CNA/wk/ac