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Older white-collar workers should receive conditional unemployment payouts: NTUC

SINGAPORE — Mature professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) should receive more support such as receiving payouts when they are in between jobs, as long as they can prove they are actively looking for a new role.

People walking at Raffles Place in the Central Business District.

People walking at Raffles Place in the Central Business District.

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  • A survey of professionals, managers and executives showed that they want protections against job losses and other forms of support
  • NTUC proposes having a payout for these workers when they are in between jobs
  • This would be conditional on the workers proving that they are actively engaged in seeking employment 
  • NTUC also said there should be harsher punishments for firms that continually practise discriminatory hiring


SINGAPORE — Mature professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) should receive more support such as receiving payouts when they are in between jobs, as long as they can prove they are actively looking for a new role. 

There should also be harsher penalties for firms that continue to discriminate against PMEs based on their age and nationality. 

These were the two suggestions made on Thursday (Aug 26) by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), as part of a task force it formed with the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) after talking to PMEs about their concerns. 

Since the task force was created last year, NTUC has engaged more than 9,000 PMEs in the form of surveys, engagement sessions and focus groups. 

A survey of 3,500 PMEs showed that what they want most are protections against job losses, support in employment opportunities and support in job-related training, NTUC said.  


Speaking at an online press conference, Mr Patrick Tay, NTUC’s assistant secretary-general and co-chair of the task force, said that although NTUC will push for PMEs to receive support when unemployed, “we don’t want to give unemployment support for the sake of it”. 

“It is more to help them in their transition,” he said. 

He also said that Singapore may adopt “active labour market policies” that are practised by some European nations, which requires that an unemployed person “demonstrate that they are actively doing the (necessary), for example, going for employability camps and career fairs, and actively send resumes”, before they can receive support payouts from the Government.

NTUC is not advocating for handouts, he stressed, noting that countries with strong welfare schemes are facing the challenge of people “finding it more attractive to stay unemployed”.  

“(Policies) should encourage people to get gainfully employed and actively engaged in the labour market.” 


Mr Tay added that many mature PMEs whom NTUC had engaged also raised the issue of workplace discrimination, especially on the basis of nationality and age. 

“We know that there are small cases of very egregious and very errant employers who, even after a lot of education, encouragement and investigation, still run foul of the law and guidelines,” he said. “Those are the ones we hope to see being addressed.” 

This could come in the form of rules, regulations or laws, as well as the strengthening of the Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices, which is Singapore’s employment watchdog. 


In one survey of 1,000 PMEs that NTUC did in April this year, it found that older workers were more pessimistic about their career opportunities:

  • 67 per cent of the mature PMEs polled — those aged between 41 and 60 — agreed that there were career opportunities out there for them

  • In contrast, 85 per cent of younger PMEs aged 20 to 40 agreed they had career opportunities

  • 58 per cent of mature PMEs were confident in getting a job with their present skills and abilities, compared with 74 per cent of younger PMEs 

  • 63 per cent of mature PMEs thought that they were easily replaceable due to age, compared with 27 per cent of younger PMEs 

  • 71 per cent of mature PMEs thought that it was difficult to find a job because companies were not open to older workers, while only 21 per cent of younger PMEs thought this way 

Another online survey of 1,000 mature PMEs aged between 41 and 60 in July showed that: 

  • 85 per cent of them felt that it was difficult to find another job that matched their skills and interests

  • 67 per cent felt that the key reason for this was because companies were not being open to workers who were 40 years and above 

  • About half the respondents felt that it would take more than six months for them to secure their next job 

  • About a quarter experienced workplace discrimination when applying for jobs, while a quarter also said that they experienced discrimination at work

NTUC and SNEF will release a fuller set of recommendations on how to better support PMEs by the fourth quarter this year. 

Related topics

PMET NTUC unemployment Jobs workplace discrimination ageism

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