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Redesigned jobs, flexible work arrangements will help older workers

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Budget roundtable suggests ways to help older workers

Redesigned jobs, flexible work arrangements with fair pay, and a dedicated job portal are some ways to help older Singaporeans stay in the workforce, experts said at a roundtable following Monday's Budget.

Another suggestion was to look at more closely aligning the retirement age, currently at 62, with the Central Provident Fund (CPF) payout eligibility age, which is 65.

These were among the ideas given by four panellists at The Straits Times Roundtable on Singapore Budget 2019 yesterday, where they discussed the Government's financial plans for the upcoming fiscal year.

In the hour-long session, moderated by ST associate editor Vikram Khanna, the experts gave their views on the various initiatives to help workers and companies adapt in a changing global environment, as well as measures to address issues such as healthcare costs and social mobility.

They also delved into the issue of support for older workers.

During his Budget speech, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said the Special Employment Credit (SEC) and the Additional SEC scheme, which incentivise and encourage employers to hire senior workers, will both be extended for another year, until Dec 31 next year.

Mr Heng added that a tripartite work group studying the concerns of older workers will present its recommendations later this year.

Singapore University of Social Sciences economist Walter Theseira, one of the panellists, called for more flexible work arrangements for older workers.

But the pay must be equitable, the Nominated MP noted.

"If somebody either can't work at full capacity or doesn't want to, then of course their wages have to adjust to some extent. Flexibility has to be there, but it has to be done in a way that is not unfair to the older worker," he said.

Professor Theseira said the Government could study aligning the retirement age with the CPF eligible payout age. He made the point that there is a "gap" between when workers are legally protected from being unfairly dismissed due to age and when their retirement support can begin.

United Overseas Bank economist Barnabas Gan suggested a job portal through which older workers can get part-time contract jobs.

Labour MP Patrick Tay said there needs to be more efforts to redesign jobs to make them "easier, safer and smarter" for older workers by leveraging on technologies such as artificial intelligence or digitalisation. Mr Tay, an NTUC assistant secretary-general, said society's mindset has to change to be more accepting of senior workers.