'60 is the new 40': Older workers have much to contribute, Sylvia Lim says in Budget 2024 debate

'60 is the new 40': Older workers have much to contribute, Sylvia Lim says in Budget 2024 debate
PHOTO: Screengrab/YouTube/MCI

Our seniors may be old?but they're still gold.

Older?workers in Singapore still have much to contribute to society, Workers' Party MP Sylvia Lim said during the Budget 2024 debate on Tuesday (Feb 27).

However, seniors haven't been allowed to?flex their muscles?—?age discrimination have prevented some from entering employment once more, she shared in Parliament.

A man in his 70s had shared with Lim how he was unable to find a job requiring similar expertise in the healthcare industry?as the one he had held before.

This was despite him appearing well-groomed, well-spoken, in good health and having decades of experience, she recalled.?

Citing the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) Fair Employment Practices Reports?published last year, Lim said that age was the most common form of discrimination encountered during job searches.

It's not like there aren't any job openings either —?according to MOM's Labour Market Report for Q3 2023, there were more job vacancies than job seekers in the country.

In fact, seniors do well at their jobs but the issue of ageism persists,?wrote?Helen Ko, an associate professor at?Singapore University of Social Sciences, in a commentary published in 2019.

"Ko opined that it was not the age of a worker that was the most important, but whether the demands of work exceeded the worker's capabilities," Lim said.

Working to stay independent

It's also beneficial to society to have seniors engaged in the workforce, she added.

"If a significant proportion of older and middle-aged people are unemployed, especially those in the lowest income groups, they will become more dependent on informal family assistance, CPF savings and government transfers or charity."

This will increase social stratification and social division in Singapore, Lim explained.

Acknowledging that the government has various incentive programmes to encourage employers to hire older workers, she said?Singapore can "attain?higher labour force participation of older workers if we change any ageist mindsets."

Hence, Lim said she is looking forward to an anti-discrimination legislation which will?be introduced in Parliament?this year.

Last August, MOM announced that the government accepted 22 recommendations from the Tripartite Committee of Workplace Fairness (TCWF)?for Singapore's anti-discrimination laws, The Business Times reported.

Discrimination in these aspects?will be disallowed - age;?nationality;?sex;?marital status, pregnancy status and caregiving responsibilities; race, religion and language; as well as disability and mental health conditions.

Levelling up with?SkillsFuture

Lim also addressed the SkillsFuture Level-Up initiative which Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong announced in?his Budget speech on Feb 16.

While she lauded the initiative for not having a maximum age of eligibility - thus implying that a worker is potentially employable regardless of age —?Lim raised questions about the new programme.

Noting that?Singaporeans aged 40 and above will receive?a $4,000 SkillsFuture credit top-up to enroll in courses, she asked:?"If the intention is to assure enrollees of better employability outcomes, will there be any condition attached to participants, such as to secure jobs in certain sectors?"? ? ?

Increased employability?wasn't mentioned as an objective of the second measure that provides additional subsidies for full-time diploma study in any area, Lim said, asking?if seniors could sign up for subsidised courses just for enrichment purposes.

Moving on to the third measure that offers a training allowance of $3,000 per month when one attends full-time courses under SkillsFuture Level-Up, she said it would be useful to know the eligibility conditions and if there were any employment outcomes required from participants.

"Older workers are a national resource that should be leveraged on for the benefit of society," Lim said.

"We still have work to do to tackle age discrimination if we are to maximise our country's potential and well-being. All of us should be life-long learners, or risk becoming obsolete.

"As I said at the start of my speech, 60 is the new 40. Let us embrace this reality with renewed confidence."

ALSO READ:?Measures to support workers, cost-of-living 'handouts' among top issues raised by MPs in Budget 2024 debate

khooyihang@asiaone.com

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