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The report will touch on several aspects of this issue such as the reasons behind aged workers joining the workforce, the factors which discourage them to join the workforce, the Singapore government on employment relations issues on aged workers, amendments to employment laws and other initiatives by the government, and the reasons for encouraging aged workers to join the workforce. Other factors include the tripartite relationship on aged workers, efforts of unions, actions taken by organizations.
The report will then be concluded, with the issue of employment relations relating to aged workers in Singapore fully analyzed.
The research touches on the employment relations issues relating to aged workers in Singapore
The Limitations of the Report:
There are limited books which specifically analyzes the employment relations issues relating to aged workers in Singapore in the library, where most of the research was conducted for this report. Therefore, detailed analysis and interpretation was done to understand the essential concepts to put this report together.
Sources and Methods of Data Collection:
Most of the information collected was from the National Library. Another source of information came from the internet.
2. Factors behind aged workers joining the workforce:
One of the reasons that drives aged workers to join the workforce is the high cost of living in Singapore and to be self-sufficient. Families often require more than one income to provide a better standard of living. It is especially crucial for low income families where elderly have to work to support and contribute to the household.
The top level management in organizations today recognizes that aged workers are able to perform simple task which would help benefit the organization, and believes that aged workers due to their experience are capable of performing their work at the same level as their younger counterparts or at an acceptable level towards the organization. Aged workers to some organizations are an asset due to their experience in the job and able to be a mentor to guide fellow workers in the right direction.
3. Factors discouraging aged workers from joining the workforce:
Despite the positive factors to entice aged workers to enter the workforce, there are several factors which are preventing some aged workers from working.
There is a perception on fear of incompetency by today's aged worker that contributes to the reluctance to re-enter the workforce after a period of unemployment or due to lowly educated.
Despite the increase of the training workshop created by the work development authority, it has not been eradicated. (Work Development Authority: www.wda.gov.sg (accessed: March 8, 2010). Empirical studies have shown that there is a significant difference between the economic status of aged workers and middle aged workers. Measuring indicators which were used include occupational and wage distribution. This is attributed to labour market discrimination which still exists in a minority number of organizations (Peterson and Lewis, 1999:p107).Some aged workers are reluctant to enter the workforce because they are lowly educated and fear of being unable to communicate well.
4. Factors encouraging aged workers to be part of the workforce
Aged workers have contributed significantly to Singapore's economic progress and increased the standard of living in the country over the years. Aged workers in Singapore are seen to play relatively important roles not only in the workforce but also in the household (Peterson and Lewis, 1999:p235)
The Singapore education system is preparing people in the direction of a knowledge-based economy. It also focuses on innovation and creative thinking. One of the main reasons that the Singapore government has chosen to move in this direction is because of the country's lack of natural resources. The government recognizes that it has to maximize its people's knowledge and skills to remain competitive. One way to maintain its competitiveness is to maximize its people's potential. The country cannot only rely on young and middle aged workers to play their part in the progress of the country. It has to increase the number of aged workers in the workforce in order to maximize this potential (Kaufman, 2004).
5. The Government's role on employment relations issues on aged workers:
The government has been emphasizing on the importance of having aged workers in the workforce, and has come up with several schemes to encourage aged workers employment.
The Singapore government understands and accepts that there is a need for shared responsibility between the governing body and aged workers. It has therefore moved to develop policies to makes it easier for aged workers to re-enter the workforce and encourage more aged workers to join the workforce. State polices such as hospitality benefits and extra monetary subsidies and the structure of Singapore's legal framework also plays a part in the participation of aged workers in the workforce (Kristina Göransson, 2009. The binding tie: Chinese intergeneration relations in modern Singapore: p91).
Another important contribution of the government is to introduced several flexible employment schemes to attract elderly to the workforce. The schemes are generally based on working on a part-time basis and which results in the aged workers receiving pro-rated salaries and benefits ((Tan, 2007:p67).
The Ong Teng Cheong Institute for Labour Studies (OTC Institute) conducts research and has programs that provide incentives and assistance for working elderly in Singapore (Tan, 2007:p106).
Feminist economists have also done studies and conducted surveys on aged worker discrimination and have advocated for the government to come up with policies that deal with comparable worth and pay equity (Peterson and Lewis, 1999:p67). The government should implement policies to level the playing field in the workforce between the different age of workers.
6. Tripartite Relationship on aged workers
The tripartite system is a system which shows the inter-relationship between three bodies, namely unions who represent employees, the management of an organization, and the government (Tan, 2007:p5). The government is the dominant playmaker in this system (Tan, 2007:p34).
The government has encouraged employers to come up with more flexibility in the working arrangement of aged workers to entice them to enter the workforce. Some are reluctant to re-enter to work force after several years away from it due to family reason while others are not working because their skills have become obsolete and they are afraid that they might not be able to cope and adapt to a new environment (Tan, 2007:p65). This is the same reason that prevents some organizations from considering this category of potential employees. The Workforce Development Agency (WDA) is an option for aged workers to undergo training programs to equip them with the necessary skills to re-enter the workforce (Work Development Authority: www.wda.gov.sg (accessed: March 8, 2010).
Several bodies are also available for aged workers who wish to enter the workforce. one such program is the Back-to-work program that is jointly launched by the Productivity and Standards Board (SPRING), which is run by the government, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), which represents employees, and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), which represents the employers (Tan, 2007:p66). This program aims to encourage aged workers and retired workers to work part-time, and for employers to provide flexible working arrangements to these workers (Tan, 2007:p67). A very good example would be the vast number of aged workers employed in McDonald's fast food outlets.
The government has also worked with employers to provide aged workers with training to improve their work skills. The employers can have their training costs subsidized by the Skills Development Fund (SDF) (Tan, 2007:p65).
7. Efforts by union:
Unions are essentially labour market institutions, which are every capitalist and democratic country has. Labour in these societies have perform work in exchange for wages, and the workers have a freedom of association (Ruysseveldt et al, 1995:p37),
Unions are formed to emancipate the workers and improve their working conditions and benefits. The movement of Singapore's union, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), affects the productivity, prosperity, and income distribution of the country (Ruysseveldt et al, 1995:p37).
Aged workers are also able to seek help from their unions to take part in training programs to upgrade their skills so that they have better job prospects.
Singapore ranks as the country that has one of the highest aged workers in the workforce as compared to the rest of Asia. However, the number of aged workers in Singapore pales in comparison some Western countries (Tan, 2007:p64). Nevertheless, the relevant bodies have taken positive steps to encourage more aged workers to enter the workforce, and have worked towards improving the level of contribution of these aged workers with a series of training and welfare programs.
Second shift is defined as work that is carried out by aged workers in both paid as well as unpaid forms. There are an increasing number of aged workers who have contributed to the role of income earners in the family, which is the paid role. (Peterson and Lewis, 1999:p126).
Having analyzed the reasons behind aged workers willingness and reluctance to work, as well as government, employer and union's role in the aiding the aged workers of Singapore in entering and thriving in the workforce, the employment relations issues of aged workers in Singapore has been fully analyzed.
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Tan C.H.. 2007. Employment Relations in Singapore. Singapore: Prentice Hall, Pearson Education South Asia Pte Ltd.
Bruce Kaufman, Theoretical Perspective on Work and the Employment Relations (Industrial Relations Research Association), Oxford University Press, USA, Oct 2004.
Singapore Statistics. 2009. http://www.singstat.gov.sg/pubn/reference/yos09/statsT-labour.pdf. (accessed March 11, 2010).
Work Development Authority. 2009. http://www.wda.gov.sg/. (accessed March 11, 2010).