SINGAPORE (Sept 18): With more than a third of the working-age population in Singapore projected to be above the age of 50 by 2030, businesses here will increasingly need to do more to tap the talent and expertise of their older employees.

Some 88% of business executives say Singapore companies need to invest more in leveraging their older employees to sustain business growth, according to a survey by Prudential.

According to Prudential’s latest report, Skilled for 100: Leveraging an older workforce, Singapore’s labour force participation in the age group above 60 is ranked one of the highest among the developed countries.

And older workers have indicated that they want to stay productive. Less than 5% of Singapore residents aged 55 to 64 say they want to retire soon, while 64% that group also say they still enjoy their work.

Top image: Prudential’s lead policy writer, Noreen Wee, 63, and colleagues participating in the company’s ‘Sports Day’ activities

However, businesses here may not yet ready to accommodate them.

Findings from the research show age is still a factor in the recruitment process. Six out of 10 executives said a candidate’s age influenced their hiring decisions.

Respondents also perceived older workers to be less receptive to feedback, less creative and less flexible than their younger counterparts.

But, the demographic transition will compel businesses to look at new and different ways to tap the older employees, says Wilf Blackburn, CEO of Prudential Singapore.

“Companies will benefit from viewing their mature employees as assets instead of costs. Backed with knowledge and experience, they can be equally if not more productive than their younger counterparts,” Blackburn says.

“To fully leverage the older workforce, there is a need to invest in building their capabilities, so they stay relevant and future-ready. This will lead to greater productivity for companies and contribute to Singapore’s competitiveness in the ever-changing global economy,” he adds.

In a separate study released Wednesday by Mercer and Marsh & McLennan Insights, it was found that Asian countries are among the least prepared to combat the threats of societal ageing and workplace automation.

However, the report ranks Singapore as the most resilient out of four Asian countries against the risk of older workers losing their jobs to automation.

 The Ageing and Automation Resilience Index analyses the mitigating factors a country has in place to tackle the challenges of ageing and job automation among older workers, as well as the strength of their local retirement system, to assess a country’s preparedness to manage ageing and automation.

Mitigating factors include higher older worker labour force participation, an adequate level of pension fund assets, favourable socio-economic conditions, and appropriate policy and legal conditions.

While Asian countries scored poorly in the index overall, Singapore came out tops among Asian nations, at 13th out of 20 countries. The three other Asian economies analysed in the index are South Korea (20th), with China (18th) and Japan (17th). Denmark, Australia and Sweden make up the top three countries in the index.

Peta Latimer, Mercer CEO for Singapore, says the greying workforce could represent an opportunity for firms to capitalise on a new source of labour.

“As semi-retirement and re-retirement becomes normalised, employers should take this opportunity to tap into an experienced, eager and productive pool of talent,” Latimer says.

“Inclusive employment requires new ideas for designing work, changing the make-up of the traditional full-time workforce and rethinking the role of managers. Some measures could include ‘elasticising’ the workforce through freelance and flexible approaches to working,” he adds. “In this way, older workers can become part of a shared ‘pool’ of resources that specialise in certain skills and provide decades of experience that can be accessed by other organisations.”