Friday, October 21, 2005

Please do what you preach!

So much for the much vaunted program of asking the private sector to hire more older workers. There is only one thing I wanted to say: "For goodness sake... PLEASE DO WHAT YOU PREACH!!!"

Friday, October 21, 2005
A tired knock on civil service doors

Lee Ching Wern

LEADER after political leader has asked the private sector not to discriminate against mature workers. A recent survey may see fingers pointing in a different direction.

It appears that the public sector, the biggest employer of all, is donning a younger look than it should have.

According to a survey conducted by the Public Service Division (PSD) on over 70 public-sector organisations, about 39 per cent of the 110,500 public officers are above 40 years old. Just 17 per cent are aged above 50 years and barely 1 per cent is above 60.

Of recruitments made over the past three years, just 14 per cent of new hirings were above 40 and just 8.4 per cent above 50.

"To be honest, we should be looking at more. The number of workers aged 50 and above should go up to about 25 per cent of the workforce," said Madam Ho Geok Choo, HR practitioner and MP for West Coast.

"If you are telling everyone to employ mature workers, then the civil service should also walk the talk with the Government. It cannot be paying lip service."

Her sentiments were echoed by NTUC assistant secretary-general Madam Halimah Yacob. She felt that the number of new recruits above the age of 40 in the public sector should be increased to 20 per cent.

"If you compare these numbers to the proportion of unemployed mature workers out there, there is certainly room for improvement," said Mr David Ang, executive director of the Singapore Human Resources Institute. As of June this year, 47,900 workers above the age of 40 were jobless, making up about 50 per cent of the total unemployment figure in Singapore.

To look at how the public sector can do more for mature workers, the Government recently formed a workgroup under the National Tripartite Committee on the Employability of Older Workers.

Minister of State for Manpower and Education Gan Kim Yong, who chairs the committee, told Today: "The committee recognises that the public sector is an important sector which we should look at to promote the employment of mature workers.

"This is why the Public Sector Workgroup, one of the eight Sectoral Workgroups that have been formed by the Committee, was among the first to be set up."

Mdm Halimah, who also sits on the committee, said the PSD may conduct some pilot projects to try and boost the recruitment of older workers.

Meanwhile, some Government organisations already have established HR practices to employ mature workers. For example, the Ministry of Education has an employment scheme in place which engages the services of retired teachers on a contract or part-time basis and the Ministry of Home Affairs has a structured career transition and training programme for police officers due to retire.

Since the private sector is profit-driven, some think that the public sector should be more likely to tweak its policies to accommodate older workers.

Said Mdm Ho: "To be fair, I think every ministry has key performance indicators to meet. But rationally speaking, if you ask who's responsible between the public or private sector, it would be the public sector. At the end of the day, private sector companies are business enterprises that have to survive in cutthroat competition.

"Thus, the onus is very heavy on the Government agencies."

But this might not be easy at a time when Government agencies have been directed to cut staff by 3 per cent every year. The public sector is also traditionally obliged to hire fresh graduates.

"You can't force the same thing on every agency because they face different challenges," said Mdm Halimah.

"But it is important to adopt a common philosophy: 'Yes, we in the public sector believe in recruiting older workers.'"


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