Yesterday (9 July), Singapore's Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo released a set of Parliamentary replies, relating to re-employment, the impact of flexi-work arrangement on staff morale, and job prospects for recent graduates.

These replies are summarised below:

Re-employment contracts and firms' support for ageing workers

Member of Parliament (MP) Desmond Choo first asked about the proportion of the workforce which was given re-employment contracts at the point of retirement.

In response, Minister Teo shared that upon reaching the minimum statutory retirement age of 62 every year, over 90% of private-sector local employees who are eligible and want to continue working are offered re-employment.

Of these, two-thirds were able to work with their existing contracts without a specified end date while the remaining one-third were offered re-employment on new contracts - of which one out of three had a contract duration of more than one year.

MP Choo also asked for the number of companies which have redesigned their jobs to support the ageing workforce, to which she shared: "The government's WorkPro Job Redesign Grant encourages companies to redesign jobs for their senior workers.  Since the grant was started in 2013, over 1,800 companies employing about 20,000 senior workers have benefitted from the grant and redesigned their jobs."

She then added that more than 10,000 companies employing around 277,000 locals aged 50 and above have implemented age-friendly practices, including job redesign, without the grant.

Participation rate in flexi-work arrangements and its impact on morale

Next, MP Foo Mee Har raised questions on the average participation rate of employees when companies offer flexi-work arrangements (FWAs), how it compares to other countries, and whether these FWAs have impacted staff productivity and turnover (in comparison with companies that do not offer).

To this, Minister Teo cited a 2018 MOM survey that showed more than nine in 10 employees in Singapore work in companies that provide some form of work flexibility, such as unplanned time-off, flexi-time or staggered hours.

She added: "This compares favourably to the experience of other OECD countries. From a 2016 OECD report covering 35 European countries, three in four employees have access to some work schedule flexibility, including taking one or two hours off for personal reasons.

"In another 2017 OECD report, about 55% of female and 53% of male employees in the US had access to FWAs."

In terms of impact on staff, Minister Teo said studies have proven that FWAs do result in better employee engagement, reduced staff turnover, and increased productivity.

To stress this point, she cited the same MOM study which found that among workplace practices, the availability of FWAs has "had the greatest impact on staff retention."

That said, Minister Teo noted that despite employees being provided with the work arrangements they needed,"there is room for workplace cultures to become even more progressive."

The impact of the US-China trade war on job prospects for graduates

Third, MP Tin Pei Ling brought up a point on the expected protracted US-China trade war, how it would then impact job prospects for recent Singaporean graduates. and the government's advice for youths entering the workforce.

To this, Minister Teo shared that despite a slowdown in the economy in recent times, there have been indicators that the labour market held up in Q1 2019. Further, despite a slight increase in youth unemployment (5.6%), there has also been a 70% employment rate of those aged 20 to 29.

However, she stressed: "MOM and Workforce Singapore (WSG) are monitoring the labour market closely, and stand ready to step up our employment facilitation services and programmes under the Adapt & Grow (A&G) initiative, should the need arise."

In finding employment, young Singaporeans are encouraged to make use of the various education and career guidance resources available, including the MySkillsFuture for industry information and tools, and MyCareersFuture portals to find jobs best suited to their skills.

Her advice to those entering the workforce? "As hiring may become more subdued, we encourage Singaporean youths entering the workforce to be open to opportunities in different sectors and occupations. They may also wish to consider work-study pathways such as the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme to acquire industry-relevant skills and work experience related to their area of study.

"It is also useful to deepen existing skills or acquire new skills so as to be ready for opportunities when economic conditions improve. In short, be open, agile, relevant. There will be employers out there who will welcome you."

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