Security guard scheme yet to draw more retirees, housewives

Madam Latipah Haron, 59, who started off as a restricted-licence guard under the scheme, is now a full-time relief guard. She decided to keep working because “the boss is supportive, and the work is manageable”.

SINGAPORE - Retirees and housewives are spurning a government scheme to woo them to work as security guards.

Launched a year ago, the programme that targets the two groups to ease manpower shortage in the security sector has not taken off, revealed the Singapore Police Force and Workforce Development Agency (WDA).

It is a sharp contrast to the upbeat note struck in August last year, when both agencies introduced the plan to hire 500 retirees and housewives to work as guards, declaring that an earlier six-month pilot had "positive feedback".

Both the police and WDA declined to say how many signed up or elaborate on the poor showing, but maintained that they will keep the scheme running despite the "initial low take-up rate".

The agencies have "assessed the project to be a viable option" for those who want to work part-time in the sector, they told The Straits Times.

The novel scheme lowered the entry bar for housewives and retirees. They attend two days of training instead of five to earn a "restricted licence security officer" certificate, and their working hours are capped at eight hours a day instead of 12.

It was part of a broader government move to make the job more attractive so that it would appeal to more Singaporeans, in a bid to ease the manpower crunch in the sector.

Security firms explained why the scheme did not work.

Mr Jimmy Terlok Nath, managing director of Interlock Security, felt that those hired under the scheme were ill-prepared for the rigours of the job.

Some 20 guards were hired by the firm last year and all have quit, with most working only one or two days. "They just wanted to try and left after finding the work too hard," he said.

Mr T. Mogan, security director of Dragnet, said it was difficult to deploy these restricted guards alongside those working 12 hours, because their numbers were too small. Only one of the four restricted-licence guards he hired under the scheme is still working.

A former restricted-licence guard, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained: "The pay and work hours were okay, but the two types of guards could not work well together. There is some work that we cannot do, and we have different working hours."

The 59-year-old quit after seven months.

One of the restricted-licence guards who stayed on the job is Madam Latipah Haron, 59.

She started as a restricted-licence guard in April last year and signed on to become a fully licensed guard this May, after completing an upgrading course. She is now a full-time relief guard, standing in for colleagues who are unable to work.

When asked why she decided to keep working, she said: "The boss is supportive, and the work is manageable."

Although the scheme is off to a very slow start, Dragnet's Mr Mogan feels it is useful to keep it. He said: "It may work in the future since the manpower shortage is not going away."