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Keynote Speech By Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister Of State For Health And Manpower, At The Age Management Seminar – “Effective Workplaces: Creating A Flexible, Inclusive, Safe And Healthy Workplace”, At Raffles City Convention Centre, On Wednesday 18 June 2014

Mr Heng Chee How

Deputy Secretary General, National Trades Union Congress

 

Mr Alexander Melchers

Vice President, Singapore National Employers Federation

 

Mr Zee Yoong Kang,

Chief Executive, Health Promotion Board

 

Mr Goh Eng Ghee

Acting Chief Executive, Singapore Workforce Development Agency

 

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

Introduction

1.          Good afternoon. I am delighted to join all of you today at the Age Management Seminar organised by our tripartite partners – the Ministry of Manpower, the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) and Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP).

2.          In recent years, Singaporeans have seen improvements in standards of living, better healthcare and increasing life expectancy. These are happy trends, which other countries are also aspiring to. At the same time, because of these trends, Singapore has become one of the fastest-ageing populations in Asia. The share of workers aged 55 years and above is estimated to rise from the current 21% to about a third in 2030.  

3.          Over the years, the Government has introduced various initiatives to help employers adapt to an ageing workforce, such as the Workfare Income Supplement and Workfare Training Support Schemes, Special Employment Credit and WorkPro. Mature workers possess a wealth of knowledge and expertise, and can contribute to the growth of our enterprises.

4.          I hope that more employers will take advantage of the assistance schemes available to better achieve our goal of helping our workers work for as long as they want to and can. Beyond Government support, companies should be motivated to tap into this growing pool of manpower and value older workers for their many intrinsic values like their experience and reliability.

5.          In many companies, the first step towards this goal is to adjust the work environment to better meet the needs of mature workers. Today’s Age Management Seminar will provide you with useful insights on how to make your workplace more age-friendly. Last year, we launched WorkPro to create more progressive workplaces, augment local manpower and strengthen the Singaporean core in our workforce. WorkPro has helped employers improve workplace practices and enhance work-life harmony, and attracted many mature workers back into the workforce. Since its launch, a total of over 1,000 companies have come onboard WorkPro to improve their workplace practices. This in turn benefitted over 4,800 workers.

6.          I am happy to share that after consulting our programme partners and employers, we are making further improvements to WorkPro to provide even more support to employers and workers. Several new features will be added to the Age Management and Work-Life grants, and these will take effect from 1 July 2014.

Further enhancements to WorkPro to help employers better manage mature workers

Enhancing workers’ health through Age Management Grant

7.          The first enhancement touches on the health of our workers. Many employers recognise that they should support and invest in the health of their workforce, and some have told us that they require more assistance in introducing good health programmes for their mature workers.

8.          To address this, we are introducing a Workplace Health Promotion (WHP) Facilitator’s course, to help arm employers with the necessary knowledge and tools to plan, design and evaluate workplace health programmes for their workers. This will be a new feature of the Age Management Grant, which currently helps employers learn about and implement good age management practices. This will ensure that all employers who tap on the Age Management Grant have the capability to actively promote healthy living among their employees, especially the older ones.

9.          I am also happy to announce that WDA and the Health Promotion Board have collaborated to introduce a new standardised health and wellness programme for employers. Under this programme, appointed health providers will administer a survey to understand the health conditions of mature workers within a company. Based on the survey findings, employers will then be advised on suitable workshops to send their mature workers for.

10.      These workshops cover topics ranging from nutrition, physical activity, fatigue management, chronic disease management, and mental and emotional well-being.

Work-Life Grant

11.      We are also making enhancements to the Work-Life Grant, to create more flexible workplaces. In a tight labour market, we must see how we can encourage more locals to come back to work. And for those who are already working, we must see how we can improve workplace flexibility to help them better meet work responsibilities and personal needs, so that they can remain in the workforce. Hence, we will continue to give strong support to employers to implement work-life strategies such as flexible work arrangements (FWAs).  

12.      Currently, the Work-Life Grant co-funds employers for up to $40,000 for expenditure on implementing FWAs. However, we recognise that employers may not necessarily need to incur expenses to implement FWAs. To encourage more employers to implement FWAs, we will enhance the Work-Life Grant to allow them to try out FWAs and identify what works best for the company and workers before implementing them company-wide. Pilots are a good way for employers to try out new FWAs, and refine them if needed, before implementing them on a larger scale. 

13.      We will provide employers with a $10,000 incentive to pilot new FWAs, and an additional $10,000 to support them in implementing the FWAs company-wide. With the enhancement, employers can receive a total funding of $40,000 for implementing FWAs, including the reimbursement of expenses incurred during the pilot and company-wide implementation. 

14.      We hope that this will motivate more employers to come on board, and foster more flexible and work-life friendly workplaces to benefit their workers and businesses.

15.      In addition to implementing new FWAs to help workers with their work-life needs, getting more workers to utilise FWAs is also something we want to encourage employers to do. We recognise that employers are at different stages of FWA implementation. Hence, we will provide incentives for different levels of FWA utilisation, so as to better motivate and recognise employers for their efforts and for making incremental changes, particularly those who have just implemented FWAs in their companies.

16.      Currently, employers can receive up to $40,000 a year if they have 30% of their workers using FWAs. Under the revised Work-Life Grant, there will also be a cash incentive of up to $25,000 a year for employers who have 20% of workers benefitting from FWAs.

17.      Employers who sustain or improve on the level of FWA utilisation can receive cash incentives for 3 years and potentially get up to $120,000 in total. We believe this will benefit more employers and spur them to ramp up the take-up of FWAs in their organisations, and this will in turn benefit their workers.

Recognising companies for implementing age management practices

18.      Today, as part of the Age Management Recognition effort, we will also be recognising six companies for going the extra mile to put in place progressive age management practices. These companies have tapped on WorkPro and used innovative ways to pioneer and implement age-friendly practices, redesigned jobs and implemented flexible work arrangements.

19.      This has helped to enable their workplaces to better meet the needs of their mature workers, and in so doing also improved their productivity and performance. The companies are:

a.  China Tangshan Chinese Pharmaceutical Co.,

b.  Ji Mei Flower Pte Ltd,

c.   Linair Technologies Limited,

d.  Ngee Ann Polytechnic Consumer Co-operative Society Ltd,

e.  Singapore Recreation Club, and

f.    The American Club.

Allow me to share with everyone the efforts of two of these companies. 

20.      China Tangshan is an SME manufacturing and distributing traditional Chinese medicine, and the majority of its employees are mature workers. The company believes firmly in providing training and development opportunities for all its workers.

21.      For example, the company has many Mandarin-speaking staff, so it went the extra mile by translating the materials of the Age Management and Job Redesign courses into Mandarin before conducting in-house training for them. The company conducts workplace risk assessment to identify and reduce health hazards for its workers. China Tangshan also provides regular health screening and traditional Chinese herbal supplements for all its staff.

22.      Linair Technologies Pte Ltd is a manufacturing company that provides environmental solutions to many industries. The company organises various health programmes and activities, such as stress management and health workshops, for its employees. Like China Tangshan, Linair conducts annual health screening and redesigns job scopes to suit its mature workers.

23.      The company also provides its re-employed workers with flexi-work options such as part-time and shorter working hours. And I am especially pleased to note that Linair values the experience of its mature workers and encourages them to mentor the younger employees, and this, I understand, has helped the company foster a more cohesive working environment.

24.      Creating workplaces that are flexible, inclusive, safe and healthy is not an easy task, and requires employers and management to put in the extra effort required to understand their workers’ needs. Let us applaud the companies who have come forward to do so. I hope others too will follow their good example.

Conclusion

25.      It is important for companies to understand the value that mature workers bring to their business, and adopt a non-discriminatory mindset when it comes to hiring and managing workers. To raise awareness about the mindset change that is required for us to become a more age-friendly society, I am pleased to share that the Tripartite Committee on Employability of Older Workers is launching a campaign today to highlight the value and experience that mature workers can bring to the workplace. The campaign, entitled ‘Tap into a Wealth of Experience’, will run for a year. 

Let us now take a look at the campaign’s TV Commercial which will run tonight on Channel 8, Channel 5 and selected cable channels. The campaign will also be on the newspapers as well as online and outdoor platforms, so do keep a look out for it and spread the message. [Play commercial].  

26.      As our population continues to age, it becomes increasingly important for us to ensure that our older workers can work for as long as we want to, and can. And I think the commercial shows clearly that often, one’s mindset can make the difference. We will all age at some point, and the efforts taken today to create age-friendly workplaces will not only benefit the mature workers of today, but also the younger ones who will become the mature workers of tomorrow.

27.      The government is committed to providing companies with the assistance needed to build age-friendly workplaces. Today’s seminar is one such opportunity to help everyone better understand the nature of hiring mature workers and how this can benefit your company. I wish everyone here a fruitful afternoon, and hope that you will take away some useful tips the speakers and distinguished panellists that the organisers have lined up today.

28.      Thank you.