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Help for middle-aged workers as Chan Chun Sing urges companies to redesign, re-skill and recruit

FILE PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore
FILE PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore

SINGAPORE — Redesign, re-skill and recruit: these are the three ways which companies can help support Singapore’s target of doubling annual job placements for mid-career local workers in their 40s and 50s to 5,500 by 2025.

This was announced by Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing during his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate in Parliament on Wednesday (3 March), as he laid out the importance of preparing middle-aged workers for future jobs created by technological change as well as keener competition for current jobs.

“We are particularly aware of the concerns amongst our mid-career workers in their 40s and 50s,” he said.

“Job security is of utmost importance to them. They have significant financial commitments as they provide for their families, often with school-going children. Many of them completed their formal education 20 years ago, moved on to establish their careers in one company, and have not had the opportunity to re-skill and up-skill.”

Redesigning jobs to create new opportunities

Chan said that employed mid-career workers are wondering if they will still have a job in the near future, because of keen job competition and rapid technological developments.

Meanwhile, those who have been retrenched are finding it tougher to re-enter the workforce and find jobs that match their skillsets and pay expectations.

Chan revealed that, in 2018, only 58.6 per cent of resident workers aged 40 and above managed to re-enter the workforce six months after retrenchment – much lower than the 70.6 per cent for those in their 30s.

As such, Chan stressed on the three ways of helping such mid-career workers.

First, he said that businesses should actively redesign their jobs to create new opportunities for existing and new workers, including those in their 40s and 50s, even as they pursue enterprise transformation.

They can now tap on the enhanced Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG), which now includes consultancy services for job redesign.

Re-skill workers as businesses grow and transform

Second, he said that businesses should actively and systematically re-skill their workers as they grow and transform.

As part of the Next Bound of SkillsFuture package – in which there will be a one-off top-up of SkillsFuture Credit for Singaporeans aged 25 years and above – Chan said that there will also see a bigger focus on businesses driving enterprise and workforce transformation in tandem.

Under the SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit (SFEC), eligible employers will also receive a one-off $10,000 credit – valid for three years from 1 April – to cover up 90 per cent of out-of-pocket expenses for supportable enterprise development and workforce transformation programmes, including re-skilling and job redesign.

This will benefit over 35,000 enterprises, that hire more than 1.5 million local workers, according to Senior Minister for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat.

“This is over and above the 70-per-cent co-funding support under the Enterprise Development Grant and Productivity Solutions Grant,” Chee said during his speech in Parliament.

“They can also use the credit to help them redesign jobs under the enhanced Productivity Solutions Grant, and redeploy workers to more productive and meaningful roles. Firms can use the credit to send their workers for approved training courses, including design-related courses.”

Also, from 1 April, worker outcomes will be included as a mandatory condition for companies that apply for Enterprise Development Grant funding. These outcomes may include wage increases, creation of skilled jobs for Singaporeans, job-redesign, and worker training.

Suitable hiring opportunities for mature workers

Third, Chan said that businesses need to offer suitable placement opportunities for Singapore’s mature workers.

On the government’s part, it will offer support by giving a hiring incentive to employers who empoy llocal jobseekers aged 40 and above through eligible re-skilling programmes. Such programmes include Professional Conversion Programmes, Place-and-Train programmes and career transition programmes by SkillsFuture Singapore’s Continuing Educational and Training centres.

For each eligible worker, the government will provide 20 per cent salary support for six months, capped at $6,000 in total.

These three areas of support need to be enacted as a tripartite effort, said Chan. Businesses need to offer more employment and upgrading opportunities; workers have to make an effort to re-skill; and the government has to support businesses and workers in their endeavours.

“If there is anything we have learnt from past challenges and the current COVID-19 (coronavirus outbreak) situation, it is that we should never underestimate the strength and resilience of our people,” he said.

“The journey ahead is full of both uncertainties and possibilities. But if we stand together – government, businesses, workers and citizens – I am certain we can overcome any challenge and chart a better future.”

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