Aging Workforce in Singapore

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Overview of Aging Population in Singapore
Populations in many developed countries are ageing, and Singapore is no exception. The first batch of post-war baby boomers will reach 65 years of age by 2012. The number of seniors will increase from 8.4% in 2005 to 18.7% in 2030 (refer to Table 1). According to the 2010 Population Report,

The proportion of residents (i.e. citizens and PRs) aged 65 and above increased from 7.0% of the resident population in 1999 to 8.8% in 2009. Correspondingly, the number of younger residents aged 15-64 for every resident aged 65 and above (i.e. the old-age support ratio) fell from 10.1 in 1999 to 8.3 in 2009 (refer to Table 2). (Singapore Department of Statistics, 2010, p. 4) Today, one out of every 12 Singaporeans is aged 65 or above. By 2030, this ratio will become one out of five.

On January 2011, the parliament has passed down the new employment law of changing to retirement age from 62 to the age of 65 from January 2012. This is a good news to many Singaporeans who felt that they are still capable of working beyond the retirement age of 62 (Nayak, 2011, para. 3).

An ageing population brings both challenges and opportunities, having tremendous effect on all parts of our society – individuals, families, communities, businesses and government. Therefore, we ought to prepare early for the challenges of an ageing population to ensure the well-being of our seniors and their families to provide the first line of support. At the same time, we must be ready to seize the economic opportunities that will emerge from the demographic shift.

Aging Workforce in the Hotel Industry
With relevance to the major demographic trends, aging population, this revolution will change the face of our labour market. Correspondingly, the workforce is not only ageing, but also growing at a much slower pace. Increasingly, companies are facing problems in recruiting replacements for retiring employees. This is a reality that companies have to grapple with and adapt to. Nevertheless, not all companies are being affected equally nor are they moving at the same rate to identify and address how the ageing trend will be impacting their businesses.

Impacts
In the hospitality industry, service is the factor that differentiates hotels from its competitors. Therefore with a large amount of aging workforce in the frontline, it will bring down the image of the hotel in terms of appearance; a younger worker would look fresher and have a better appeal to guests. As a guest of a hotel overseas, he or she would be preferred to be served by younger workers than people of an old age.

As older employees are naturally more prone to illnesses, they would tend to take more medical leaves thus decreasing the manpower. When one gets sick, it affects the employees’ mood to work and thus less concentration when working. This in turn reduces the efficiency of the operations of hotels. In addition, the needs and interest changes with aging workforce. According to the study by Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP) (2010), “rising health and insurance costs, concern about physical abilities, and adaptability/willingness were ranked as the top three challenges” (p. 3).

With the ever changing preferences and needs of the society, hotels have to constantly upgrade their standard of services. However, older employees may not be equipped with latest skills and knowledge needed to achieve the hotel’s competitive advantage. Thus, there is a need to constantly upgrade the skills of their older employees. Older employees are more resistant to changes and improvements. This may be mainly due to their thinking of already having the appropriate experience and knowledge and there is no need for further training, especially in the situation of “leapfrogging”, where a younger worker is put in charge of a more experienced worker.

Many hotels will have an advantage by having a large pool of elderly employees. It is...
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