Intergenerational harmony in the workplace

by | April 27, 2010

Delegates for the 4th ICIP conference address intergenerational challenges.

BY: Eleanor Yap


As a society ages and life expectancy increases, the widening “age gap” between the society’s oldest and youngest could become a key cause of conflict, not only at work but also in the home and within the community, suggested experts who have gathered in Singapore for the four-day 4th International Consortium for Intergenerational Programmes (ICIP) conference, which kicked off yesterday at Pan Pacific, Singapore.


MOM’s efforts

The conference was opened by Minister for Manpower (MOM) Gan Kim Yong who shared preliminary findings from the 2009 Retirement & Re-employment Practices survey by MOM which indicated that nearly two-thirds or 64 percent of companies surveyed already allowed their employees to continue working past age 62. The survey was conducted from October to December of last year and covered more than 3,000 employers and 964,000 employees. More information on the survey will be released in May.

Some highlights in the survey:
• Three in 10 or 30 percent of private establishments surveyed had local employees who reached the age of 62 during the year ending June 2009, involving some 9,400 local employees.

• The vast majority or 92 percent of them were allowed to work beyond the age of 62.

• This comprised 62 percent who were allowed to continue working beyond 62 and 30 percent who were offered re-employment, mostly in the same job.

• Nearly all (94 percent or 8,150) of those offered employment beyond 62 accepted the offer (this includes those who accepted the offer of re-employment or continuation of employment).

• Only a minority rejected the offer (4.9 percent) or was still considering the offer (0.7 percent) at the time of the survey.


Ahead of the re-employment legislation, which will be introduced by 2012, the Ministry has launched the Tripartite Guidelines on Re-employment of Older Employees to help companies put in place systems and processes to re-employ their older employees. MOM has also launched an advertising and publicity campaign to highlight the value of older workers. The print, broadcast and outdoor advertisements showcase real-life examples of older workers from all walks of life. There is Angie Ng (left), 66, director of operating theatre, at Thomson Medical Centre, or Minsawi bin Mahdari (left), 61, land survey assistant, at company CAK & FG Survey.

Alexander Melchers, the Tripartite Implementation Workgroup on the Employability of Older Workers’ chairperson and vice-president of the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), said during the public outreach launch several weeks ago, “We want to go beyond just preparing our employers. To make re-employment of older workers a part of our corporate culture, we need to also inspire a mindset change among all employees; the young ones, the senior managers and the rank and file workers; and of course those elder workers who are keen to continue contributing, but may not be aware of their options.

 “We also recognise the importance of rallying the public to support these older employees – whether they are friends or family members of our silver talent, colleagues, or even customers. What this is about is an across-the-board mindset change, where people are not judged based on age, but based on their skills, their experience, their willingness to learn and to contribute – at whatever age they are.” The Workgroup was rolled out this month and was set up under the Tripartite Committee on Employability of Older Workers. MOM will be launching the Workfare Training Scheme, come July, which will provide older, low-wage workers additional financial incentives to upskill.


Intergenerational issues centrestage

Back at the ICIP conference, Gerard Ee (below), chairman the Council for Third Age (C3A), co-organiser of the conference, said that soon we would be interacting simultaneously with up to five generations – the traditionalists, baby boomers, and Generations X, Y and Z. 

“These five generations are quite distinct from each other – after all, they did grow up in very different eras. In Singapore, the oldest will remember life in kampongs, sharing a home with parents, grandparents and maybe, even great grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Marbles and chaptek were the popular games of the day; and news came via radio broadcasts and neighbours. Then there was World War II, the struggle for independence, integration with Malaya and for Singapore, the subsequent separation, racial riots and high unemployment. What a far cry from the youths of today, who are their products of a stable and wealthy Singapore, a globalised world, nuclear families and the Internet.”

Ee, who has two teenage children, explained that despite the differences from the different generations, they all need to come together and share. For instance, the older person has to accept instructions from a younger person. “There should be mutual respect between the two. Don’t look at the age; look at what each can bring to the table.” He shared the local food rojak with its many different tastes. “When blended together, it is the greatest dish in the world.”

One of the interesting highlights of the first day was an experiential learning session (which will continue today) where during lunch, delegates at their respective tables had a “surprise guest” of someone younger who “acted” out a scenario and delegates had to think of what intergenerational programmes could address some of the needs and challenges in that scenario. For instance, ours was an 18-year-old boy who comes from a wealthy family and feels neglected as his parents are not around much and he spends most of this time with his maid, who he sees as his best friend. He has no friends, as he is concerned whether they are most interested with him or his money.

The conference was also organised by the International Consortium for Intergenerational Programmes (ICIP) and the Health Research Cluster, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore. The conference also will have site visits for its delegates and two roundtables.



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