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S'pore should keep in step with first world practices in employment laws. Gilbert Goh.

Tighten labour laws to protect older, vulnerable workers

Gilbert Goh

I refer to the article "CDC sets up new taskforce" (Today 20 July).

I applaud the Central Singapore CDC on setting up a taskforce to tackle the growing unemployment situation targeting those belonging to the 40s age group. We must be the only first world country in the world that has strong hiring prejudice against older unemployed workers. Their decades of working experience and wisdom seem to be unrecognised.

This is also one of the main reasons why many educated capable Singaporeans in their 40s choose to emigrate to other countries that have fairer hiring practices.

Strangely, many friends aged above 40 years old, having gone through various retraining programmes initiated by the CDC/WDA, also face difficulty finding work. It is rather plain that retraining may not be the answer to a growing chronic problem among the unemployed.  There may be other issues at work here.

Friends working in employment agencies speak about employers requesting for younger workers and the agencies have no choice but to abide if they want their businesses.

Employers who also have the luxury of employing younger, cheaper foreign workers continue to exploit the employment situation because of the recession and go unpunished in their discriminatory hiring practice.

Our labour laws seem lax and has no bite here. There is frankly nothing much that the older unemployed workers, looking for work, can do when he faces discriminatory hiring. Many advanced countries I know have strong labour laws protecting older and less educated workers. They will not allow discriminatory hiring practices as these not only weaken the social fabric of the society but also deepen the growing wage gap in advanced economies.

Unless our labour laws are tightened with the intention to protect our older vulnerable workers, we will continue to face challenges in the employment front.

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