Skilled for 100 - Leveraging an older workforce in Singapore

| 19 Sep 2019

Lead policy writer, Noreen Wee, 63, and colleagues participating in Prudential’s ‘Sports Day’ activities

With a rapidly greying population, companies will need to invest more in leveraging their older employees to sustain business growth. This was highlighted by nearly 9 in 10 (88 per cent) of the 200 business executives interviewed for Prudential's latest report, Skilled for 100: Leveraging an older workforce, which was researched by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

The combination of rising longevity and falling birth rates has led the number of workers aged 60 to 64 to more than double in the last decade (2008 – 2018). Today, Singapore’s labour force participation in the age group above 60 is ranked one of the highest among the developed countries.  
This demographic transition will compel businesses to look at new and different ways to tap the older employees, said Mr 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.  

“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,” said Mr Blackburn. 

Older workers want to stay productive, but businesses are not ready to accommodate

Singapore’s older workers want to continue working. No more than five per cent of Singapore residents aged 55 to 64 surveyed indicated they want to retire soon, and 64 per cent of the same age group said they still enjoy their work. 

However, while older workers want to work for longer, employers are not stepping up. Nearly half (48 per cent) of the executives surveyed admitted to not investing enough resources toward retaining workers. Additionally, only 16 per cent of the respondents believe their companies are committed to support the aspirations of their older employees who want to work into their 60s and 70s.


Tackling ageism

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. On the flip side, they appreciate older workers for their strong work ethic, punctuality and positive attitude towards work. Eight in 10 respondents (84 per cent) view older employees as more committed to the organisation. 
Experts interviewed for the report recommend measures that foster more interaction with older employees as a way to dispel negative perceptions about them at the workplace. 

Prudential’s age-friendly initiatives

Prudential has put in place several measures to make its workplace more age-friendly. In October 2018, it scrapped the retirement age to allow its employees to continue to work as long as they are able to perform their jobs well. In August 2019, it raised CPF contribution rates for its employees above the age of 55, making their contributions equal to that of their younger colleagues. Through policies that reward employees based on performance, the insurer hopes to make its workplace more age-agnostic and productive. 
More recently, Prudential extended the group medical coverage age limit to 100 for its employees to enable them to work for longer. This benefit is extended to its corporate customers who sign up for the insurer’s customised group medical insurance. 
The life insurer is also helping its workforce stay competitive and relevant so they can enjoy extended careers. Employees are encouraged to upgrade themselves through various programmes that include courses in artificial intelligence, innovation, and entrepreneurship. They can then take up other roles in the company that match their upgraded skillsets through Prudential’s internal career mobility programme. Last year, 14 per cent of Prudential’s workforce took on new roles in the organisation. 
“We believe staying employed keeps one active and socially engaged, which in turn leads to better physical and mental health. Additionally, one can build a bigger retirement nest-egg with an extended career so the risk of outliving one’s retirement savings becomes lower,” added Mr Blackburn. 
Mr Charles Ross, Asia Editorial Director at the EIU, highlighted that an ageing workforce represents a real opportunity if companies are prepared to rise to the challenge. 

“Singapore’s ageing workforce could bring about a greater contribution for sustained economic growth, if policies aimed at extending careers are successful. But employers need to prepare for older workers by nurturing well-skilled and future-ready employees and improving retention by supporting a positive work/ life balance,” said Mr Ross.

To download the Whitepaper for Skilled for 100 - Leveraging an older workforce in Singapore, click here


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