Channel NewsAsia
Updated: 04/18/2014 23:07 | By Channel NewsAsia

Funeral directors looking for the right people to take over

Funeral directors looking for the right people to take over

Funeral directors looking for the right people to take over

SINGAPORE: In ageing Singapore, the funeral business is getting old faster than others.

Most funeral directors and their staff are between 50 and 60 years old, and they are facing the pressing challenge of attracting young people into a business that's often seen as old and morbid.

But it's also a multi-million dollar business, and growing.

Channel NewsAsia talks to funeral directors to find out how they are tackling the industry's own "silver tsunami".

Ms Jenny Tay, 28, is one of Singapore's youngest funeral directors.

The former advertising executive took over her father's business a year ago, and has since kicked off a new chapter for the company -- computerising, re-branding and offering new services like grief counselling.

Ms Tay, managing director of Direct Funeral Services, said: "With better services, with more modern services being offered, it will change the image of the industry as a whole, and people will change their perception of how the funeral industry is right now."

The focus is on developing the business, but the changes seem to be having a positive impact on hiring.

Jenny said the company has been receiving more job enquiries from young applicants since she took over.

It is not a glamorous job, but not everyone Channel NewsAsia spoke to on the street said 'no' when asked if they will consider working in funeral services.

There are no official estimates of how much the funeral industry in Singapore is worth.

But with basic funeral packages costing anywhere between S$5,000 and S$10,000, more than 18,000 deaths a year and growing at a rate of two to three percent, it's big business.

Still, there's no guarantee the industry will get the right people.

Mr Peter Yan, executive director of Peace Casket, said: "There are few things in life more painful than losing a loved one through death. At that point in time you want someone to hold you by the hand and walk through this difficult time. We want people like that, who are committed, and not come in just for the money."

In 2001, Mr Yan took over the 80-year-old family business Wee Brothers and renamed it Peace Casket.

His children are not keen to join the sector, so like his predecessor, 61-year-old Mr Yan plans to pass the business to one of his staff when he retires.

Industry players said the manpower challenge is manageable for now.

But they are looking at a real crunch 10 to 15 years down the road, when Singapore's baby boomer generation starts to turn 80.

The question many are asking is -- will the industry be able to answer to this need for its essential services?  - CNA/de

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