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More help needed especially for older workers: Heng Chee How

TO maximise fair play for older workers and help those whose incomes are affected, Heng Chee How, NTUC deputy secretary-general and MP for Jalan Besar GRC outlined a five-pronged approach in Parliament on Tuesday.

The approaches, which he called "Heart", comprise "holding onto jobs", "employment assistance", "act fairly", "relief", and "tough it out together".

Holding on to jobs is the most preferred of the various options, said Mr Heng, as he encouraged employees to make use of the various special funding made available in the 2020 Budget, including the Senior Worker Early Adopter Grant and the Part-time Re-employment Grant.

Schemes such as e2i's Lift and Place programme which keeps workers on the payroll while they are on temporary secondment to another job in another industry should also be tapped wherever possible said Mr Heng.

That being said, despite best efforts, some workers will be displaced; and when that happens, the most important task is to help the person get back into work as quickly as possible, he noted.

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In this context, the work of the National Jobs Council (NJC) and NTUC's Jobs Security Council is of critical importance.

He added: "I urge the NJC to closely monitor the job matching, switching and retraining efforts and outcomes for older workers, and make the necessary adjustments, enhancements and interventions in the weeks and months aside to prevent the build-up of a sticky or permanent precariat of older involuntarily displaced workers."

Mr Heng also called on the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) to consider a second tranche of the Covid-19 Support Grant (CSG) and Temporary Relief Fund (TRF) to provide relief for displaced workers.

"I also seek MSF's support to empower the Social Service Offices with greater flexibility to help displaced workers promptly to cope with family expenses using Comcare and other schemes," said Mr Heng.

He also noted that as the slowdown wears on, calls by individuals to tap into their CPF savings to tide over this difficult period will grow.

"To help provide greater support to our older workers who face financial hardship, I call on MOM (the Ministry of Manpower) to consider reviewing and expanding the criteria of the Silver Support Scheme and the Workfare Income Supplement to help older low-wage workers who may have lost their jobs or who had to stomach severe pay cuts," he said.

Finally, Mr Heng asked that the Ministry of Health consider higher thresholds on CPF-Medisave for older Singaporeans, or greater flexibility on a case-by-case basis to help with coping with cash expenses without sacrificing medical treatment.

Mr Heng also stressed that older workers should continue to look after their health, demonstrate positive work attitude and be willing to adapt and be flexible. This makes it easier for employers to adjust their operations, he said.

He concluded: "Beyond the specific help measures, it is the collective will of the people to stand as one, to not let adversity cow us, split us or break us that sets the tone of our society and decide our fate as a nation."

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