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  • Dec 01, 2020
  • Lauren Hassani

Singapore's Silver Workforce

As its population ages, Singapore’s workforce is also aging. Over the past decade, the employment rate for those aged 65-plus has surged, from 13.8 percent in 2006 to 28.7 percent in 2019. Many employers are eager to utilize the talents and contributions of this older group of workers as a solution to their hiring needs. In 2018, the Ministry of Manpower formed the Tripartite Workgroup on Older Workers to examine the concerns and interests of older workers.

Based on the committee’s recommendations, within the coming decade, Singapore plans on raising the retirement age to 65 and re-employment age (an extension for eligible employees who wish to continue to work) to 70. The current age requirements are 62 and 67, respectively. Contribution rates to the Central Provident Fund (CPF), the country’s compulsory savings and pension plan, were also increased under the committee’s guidance.

In addition to policy changes, the government rolled out grants that encourage companies to adopt age-friendly practices. The Senior Worker Early Adopter Grant provides funding support of up to S$250,000 to forward-thinking employers willing to keep employing their staff beyond the statutory retirement ages. A Part-time Re-employment Grant provides up to S$125,000 to employers committed to a policy that provides part-time re-employment opportunities at the request of eligible senior workers. Part-time opportunities help to keep seniors in the workforce by providing flexible, less strenuous positions.

ABOVE: Peter Kumar, 64, is a senior operations executive at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore’s sprawling, fantastical garden oasis. 
LEFT: Friday morning exercise classes help to energize the staff at the Royal Plaza on Scotts. RIGHT: David Yeo, 54, Staff Enterprise Architect, Singtel Group. 

Companies across a variety of industries have taken advantage of these grants and are innovating on their own to attract and retain senior workers. Telecommunications conglomerate Singtel provides its own internal programs for workers age 50 and up, helping them to plan their careers as they age and to stay abreast of new technology. The Royal Plaza on Scotts, a 511-room hotel in the upscale Orchard Road shopping district, adopted age-friendly policies more than a decade ago. Since then, they have continued to focus on retaining older employees and building a multigenerational workforce, incorporating benefits like flexible work arrangements, group exercise classes, and technology to improve working conditions.  

LEFT: Chiew Hong, 62, has been at the Royal Plaza on Scotts for 42 years, starting as a housekeeping attendant and working her way up to head seamstress. RIGHT: Abdul Subhan Bin Shamsul Hussein and a colleague install a new flat screen tv in a room at the Royal Plaza on Scotts.

A 2014 survey of 2,000 Singaporeans between the ages of 50 and 74 found that seniors overwhelmingly want to continue working as long as possible. The study, conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies in conjunction with the Council for Third Age, reported that 90 percent of respondents felt that working post-retirement is essential for successful aging, helping them to stay financially independent, physically active and healthy, and connected to society. 

Longer life expectancies (the highest in the world) and a high standard of healthcare all mean that a growing number of Singaporean seniors will continue to work well past retirement age. In the coming years, Singapore will increasingly need to maximize the potential of its older workforce, taking an active approach to age-friendly policies to ensure the country's sustained economic growth. ●

Photographs by Marco Javier