How do we make sure senior workers remain employable and future ready?

TLDR; NTUC Deputy Secretary-General Heng Chee How on how upskilling and training is the best way to ensure the workforce has better wages and longer employability, particularly for senior workers. 

Headlines last year were abuzz with reports on ageisism and forum letters on discrimination at the workplace, with even the passing of an upcoming anti-discriminination law to protect seniors in the workplace. 

Photo: The Straits Times / Gin Tay / yfbus15-OL/16 / Yufeng NTUC Deputy Secretary-General Heng Chee How speaks to technicians undergoing EV awareness training at the Bus Technical Specialist Certification Centre, Ulu Pandan Bus Depot on Feb 15, 2022.

Speaking to the media during a visit to Ulu Pandan Bus Depot, NTUC Deputy Secretary-General Mr Heng Chee How – who was interacting with older bus technicians who had been reskilled to service electric buses – said that the end goal is for Singaporeans to retire as best as possible.  

How? By ensuring that our seniors remain employable and future ready so that they can earn have better jobs and earn better wages.

Speaking of wages, this only comes when one is employed. How can we ensure we have good jobs that pay us well, especially for older workers?

Fortunately for older workers, the retirement and re-employment ages for Singapore workers will be progressively raised to 65 and 70 years old respectively after constant calls and reviews made by NTUC as our country progressively becomes an aging population. 

The National Trades’ Union Congress also said that to combat this is to ensure that companies are proactive in reskilling and upgrading their workers, and also come up with a proper and robust plan to do so. 

NTUC has also been encouraging firms to set up company training committees (CTCs) to help guide them through this period of digital transformation. 

Mr Heng Chee How used the training of bus technicians by SBS Transit – which operates Ulu Pandan Bus Depot, in preparation for the electrification of public buses – as an example, and called it “encouraging”. 

He also went on to explain that this arose out of company training plans, and sending specific workers for training as many bus technicians are not young. He also noted that it is important to make sure that these workers retain and enhance their employability and value at work. 

On top of that, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is calling for the Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution salary ceilings to be reviewed to ensure middle-income workers have enough retirement funds in their accounts.

Why are there always reviews made for CPF and why are they important? 

It’s not unusual for reviews to be made from time to time. The salary ceiling for CPF was last raised six years ago, when the Ordinary Wage ceiling went up from $5,000 a month to $6,000 a month. On top of that, Additional Wages like the annual performance bonus ceiling were also increased that year.

The reviews are essential to keep pace with the wage growth. 

NTUC Deputy Secretary-General, Heng Chee How: When the general (wage) level goes up, a smaller and smaller percentage of the total pay will earn you CPF savings. If more of that salary level can be eligible for CPF, then workers can save more. 

Some examples of changes implemented on CPF-related funds this year: 

  • To help workers save more for retirement, employee and employer CPF contribution rates for workers aged above 55 to 70 years old were raised this year, by a total of 1.5 to 2 percentage points. 
  • The Housing Board and the CPF Board said CPF interest rates will be unchanged in the second quarter of this year – at up to 3.5 per cent a year for the Ordinary Account and up to 5 per cent a year for the Special and MediSave accounts.

NTUC also calls for employers, workers, unions and government agencies to work together to identify and build the skills that are needed for the workforce, in particular senior workers to empower them to take on new roles and opportunities in society.

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