SINGAPORE: NTUC’s Deputy Secretary General and Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Heng Chee How, has put forth several proposals to grow the older worker segment of the workforce.
Speaking during the debate on the White Paper on Population in Parliament, he described this segment as an untapped one, and urged the tripartite partners to start working on further extending the re—employment age limit from 65 years old to 67 years old.
He said that the limit of age 67 is already provided under the law, so there is no need for further legislation, but there is a need to ensure smooth implementation of the re—employment or people aged 62 to 65 and consider how best to facilitate further extension sooner rather than later.
Mr Heng said a key part of this would be to ensure that employers in both the private and public sector value their older workers as assets, pay them fairly even as they enter re—employment and not make mechanical cuts to their pay and benefits.
Another proposal put forth was to enhance the ADVANTAGE! Scheme to make it even more attractive for employers to transform their recruitment and work processes to be age—friendly.
Mr Heng also suggested reforming the Eldershield scheme and revamp HDB workplace health programmes such as Wellness@Work so as to improve health and reduce concerns by employers and employees about rising healthcare and health insurance costs as workers age.
He said: "For Eldershield, it is currently a contingency insurance scheme that makes a cash payout when the insured person is disabled. There is nothing in it to incentivise the insured person to age well, whether by way of premium differentiation or participation in wellness programmes.
"There is also no link between the payout made and what the money is used for. Hence, the payout may not be for better eldercare.
"There are alternative arrangements and examples in other countries, like the US, that provides clearer linkages in these areas and thus tilt the scales in favour of better preventive lifestyles in ageing well and in eldercare.
"I urge the government and the insurance industry to review the use of Eldershield beyond adjusting payouts from time to time.
"If we can integrate such a review, together with workplace wellness programmes, I believe it will help lessen the worries of workers and employers over accelerating healthcare and health insurance costs as workers age."
Earlier in his speech, Mr Heng also rebutted the Workers’ Party’s argument of allowing 10,000 new citizens a year versus the White Paper’s proposal of 15,000 to 25,000 per year.
He said there are about 18,000 deaths among the population each year. Hence, the Workers’ Party’s proposal would not be enough to even make up for those who pass away.
It will also make the opposition party’s own hope of achieving one per cent growth in Singapore’s citizen workforce between now and 2020 harder to achieve, he added.
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