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NTUC, employer group propose short-term salary support for firms hiring jobless older white-collar workers

SINGAPORE — Firms hiring unemployed mature white-collar workers should get short-term salary support to lower the cost and risk they face, said a task force made up of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF).

The proposal for salary support for firms hiring unemployed older white collar workers is among nine recommendations made by the task force.

The proposal for salary support for firms hiring unemployed older white collar workers is among nine recommendations made by the task force.

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  • Nine recommendations were submitted to the Government to address the concerns of PMEs by a task force led by NTUC and the Singapore National Employers Federation
  • Set up last October, the task force consulted affected white collar workers, unions and business leaders
  • NTUC’s Sec-Gen Ng Chee Meng said the recommendations were necessary due to the combined pressures PMEs faced caused by a rapidly changing world and Covid-19

 

SINGAPORE — Firms hiring unemployed mature white-collar workers should get short-term salary support to lower the cost and risk they face, said a task force made up of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF).

To assist these mature-aged professionals, managers and executives (PMEs), the task force said on Thursday (Oct 21) that it has submitted this recommendation, along with eight others, to the Government after an extensive consultation process.

The proposal involves short term salary support of up to 50 per cent of the individual’s salary funding, capped at S$3,800 per month for a period of six months.

Doing so would allow companies to “assess the mature PMEs’ suitability for the job role”, said the task force during a press conference on Wednesday ahead of the release of the recommendations to strengthen support for PMEs.

The task force also suggested training courses and mentorship programmes for mature PMEs.

This can be done through implementing more fast track training programmes with certifications, such as the Workforce Skills Qualifications Advanced Certificate in Learning and Performance.

“Mature PMEs aged above 40 are more susceptible to retrenchments and face difficulties in their job search,” said the task force in its 60-page report.

“Despite being active in their job search and undergoing training, mature PMEs who were retrenched relayed difficulties in securing a job. Many perceived that they face age discrimination in their job search even if they possess the relevant skillsets.”

UNEMPLOYMENT SUPPORT

On Aug 26 this year, the task force had announced four of the recommendations ahead of its submission to the Government.

One of the recommendations related to unemployment support, which Mr Patrick Tay, NTUC’s assistant secretary-general and co-chair of the task force, elaborated on at the media conference on Wednesday.

The task force suggested providing supplementary income relief and assistance for those who are involuntarily unemployed. Additional support is also recommended for all union members and vulnerable mature PMEs.

“Many PMEs, on average, take about three to six months to re-enter the workforce,” said Mr Tay.

While there are various professional conversion programmes and incentives for unemployed PMEs, he said that providing income relief is “something new” and that the Government could come up with some form of transitory support framework.

If accepted, Mr Tay said a tripartite workgroup would need to look into this recommendation in further detail as it involves national resources.

He said there will be three important questions to ask if this recommendation is implemented.

The first, he said, is knowing what the trigger event is. Should it be whenever a person is unemployed, or when he has been retrenched?

The second, is figuring out how much to give out, and where the funds will come from.

And finally, he said, is deciding when the support will kick in, and how long it will last.

Nevertheless, NTUC’s secretary-general Ng Chee Meng stressed that the support is not meant to “disincentivise” unemployed individuals from working, but rather would “alleviate some of those challenges in sustenance” during the period they are hunting for a job.

OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS

The taskforce also spoke about the need to enhance fair employment practices.

It is seeking the improvement of human resource (HR) standards by ensuring companies with more than 200 employees have HR staff with certifications that are either internationally recognised or from the Institute for Human Resource Professionals.

The task force also hopes to strengthen enforcement against errant companies by improving public communications of the Fair Consideration Framework and channels to report unfair hiring practices, as well as putting in place safe whistle-blowing policies and procedures, among other measures.

The remaining six recommendations broadly involve:

  • Strengthening the Singaporean core by improving Employment Pass application review processes and enhancing skills transfers to local PMEs

  • Widening the support for PMEs by setting up a work group involving the Government, unions, and employers, to review the scope of union representation of PMEs.

  • Building Singaporean leaders by supporting leadership development programmes for Singaporean PMEs, for instance

  • Providing customised career coaching support to PMEs through professionally trained career coaches supported by NTUC and SNEF

  • Developing structured jobs and skills plans for PMEs to upskill workers in line with business and industry requirements

  • Strengthening ties between the authorities, unions and employers to prepare workforce for economic transitions and investment pipelines. For instance, this can be done by incorporating training needs into the curriculum at Institutes of Higher Learning

STRONG WORKFORCE CREATES STRONG BUSINESSES

The task force consulted widely with more than 10,000 PMEs, business leaders and unions since it was set up in October last year to understand their concerns.

Through online surveys, focus group discussions and engagement sessions, it found that PMEs are most concerned with the lack of job security and require greater support in employment and training opportunities.

“These concerns and challenges are felt more acutely by mature PMEs in their 40s to 60s,” said the task force.

“Even as businesses transform to ensure business sustainability, the skillsets possessed by PMEs, including younger PMEs, may be at risk of becoming obsolete.”

NTUC’s Mr Ng said the recommendations were important as “the world is changing rapidly”, and it has increased the pressure on Singapore’s PMEs. This has been felt more keenly with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With this backdrop, Mr Ng said NTUC needed to step in to “protect and represent” the interest of a growing pool of PMEs.

“Traditionally, they could have fended for themselves, but increasingly, they are becoming vulnerable,” he said.

However, he said the issues employers were facing needed to be accommodated at the same time, which was why the labour movement had to team up with the employers federation.

Noting that it was the first time SNEF had come up with a set of recommendations with NTUC alone, the federation’s president Dr Robert Yap said both groups were “in the same boat” in wanting to make Singapore and the workforce strong.

“From the employer’s perspective, what we want is a world class workforce. Because with a strong workforce, businesses will thrive,” said Dr Yap, who is a co-advisor to the task force, along with Mr Ng.

Related topics

PMET NTUC unemployment Jobs workplace discrimination

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