Older workers prefer flexi-work
Wed, Oct 13, 2010
my paper

By Joy Fang

OLDER workers in Singapore want flexible working hours, as that would allow them to spend more time with their families and engage in leisure activities, a recent study done by the Employer Alliance has found.

The Employer Alliance is a network of corporations that aims to raise awareness of the benefits offered by work-life strategies.

Through a focus-group session with 16 employees aged 50 and above, the study discovered that older workers valued relationships the most.

Those aged between 50 and 54 wanted a job that requires minimal travelling and provides flexible working hours, so that they can be home for their families more often.

They also cited a desire for more time to engage in social activities such as sports and having meals.

Those aged between 55 and 59 said they wanted greater flexibility when taking long periods of leave to enjoy leisure activities such as travelling. They also wanted a lighter workload.

The study also conducted interviews with 22 organisations here, including SingPost and banks.

It found that only 5 to 15 per cent of new positions here are made available to older people as older employees are perceived to have lower energy levels, lack relevant skills and the ability to adapt quickly.

However, the study also found that companies do value older workers who are already in their employment, because of their loyalty and wealth of knowledge.

The study's findings come in the wake of figures confirming Singapore's ageing population.

The Census of Population 2010 showed that 37 per cent of Singapore's population is 45 years old and above - a jump of almost 10 percentage points from a decade ago.

The median age of the resident workforce, according to the Ministry of Manpower's Labour Force Survey last year, is 41 years, up from 38 years in 1999.

The alliance's study seeks to find out how employers may tap into the pool of older workers here by developing work arrangements that would meet their needs.

One employer here who embraces older employees is the Royal Plaza on Scotts. The hotel was a winner of last year's International Innovative Employer's Awards. These were given out by the Council for Third Age and American group AARP to organisations that observe good practices which help keep older workers in the workplace.

The hotel's human-resources manager, Ms Juliana Ong, said it developed recruitment strategies to attract mature workers, such as implementing a flexible working arrangement that offers shorter working hours and a benefits package.

Madam Tan Kim Heng, 64, a housekeeping attendant at the hotel, said the flexible working hours allow her to strike a good work-life balance.

She has worked at the hotel for over 20 years and was re-employed two years ago under a flexi-work arrangement after she turned 62.

She works from 3pm to 11pm, six days a week. This gives her more time in the mornings to be with her grandchildren. "I am very happy to be working as it allows me to keep in touch with modern society," she said. "I am also able to contribute to society.

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