MORE employers here now actively hire older workers, a recent survey by global recruitment and HR services firm Randstad shows.
Over two-thirds of the 262 CEOs, managers and HR professionals polled here in February said their companies now actively recruit people above the age of 49. This was more than double the 30 per cent who did so in 2009 and surpassed the Asia Pacific average of 60 per cent. In all, 3,000 respondents were polled region-wide.
Employers need to 'extend the boundaries of their talent pool' as competition for talent heats up, Randstad's 2010 World of Work report says. Singapore's unemployment rate has fallen to 2.2 per cent, implying a tight labour market and potential talent shortages, Randstad chief executive Ben Noteboom said last week.
The need to swiftly fill vacancies created by higher employee turnover was cited by companies as the top HR challenge in this year's report. 'The war for talent is on, and it's a global one,' Mr Noteboom said.
In Singapore, more hiring of mature workers also comes as the government steps up efforts to prepare employers for new legislation in 2012 that will in effect raise the retirement age.
'There has been a lot of communication with the public about the ageing population and equity in the workplace. With increased awareness, there is now greater acceptance of hiring older workers too,' said Karin Clarke, Randstad regional director for Singapore and Malaysia.
Dhirendra Shantilal, Kelly Services Asia Pacific senior vice-president, observed that grants from schemes like the Workforce Development Agency's (WDA) Advantage Scheme have 'given organisations the impetus and, more importantly, the financial viability to retain or hire workers of mature age'.
There has also been an increase in contract assignments for which 'employers have more flexibility to hire experienced individuals who can hit the ground running with little support', and 'mature workers excel in these due to their wealth of experience and knowledge', said Andrea Ross, Robert Walters Singapore managing director.
But employers here have been slower to diversify their workforce in other ways. They trail behind regional peers in welcoming people with disabilities into the workplace. Just 19 per cent recruit from this pool, up from 2009's 11 per cent but below the 35 per cent Asia Pacific average and Malaysia's 27 per cent.
The percentage of those who recruit parents re-entering the workforce in flexible or part-time posts also fell to 39 per cent from 41 per cent last year - lower than the 60 per cent Asia Pacific average. But Ms Clarke thinks this could reflect the fact that fewer parents take time off work here, rather than companies' reluctance to hire.
Foreign talent is more sought after here than elsewhere though - 86 per cent of respondents actively recruit from abroad compared to 57 per cent across Asia Pacific. Mr Noteboom thinks this is an advantage for Singapore: 'Worldwide, the unfortunate thing is that productivity increases alone cannot compensate for ageing populations, so attracting global talent is key.'