Younger Workers Can Be Equally Vulnerable During An Economic Downturn – Business Roundup (20 Sep)

In an economic recession, jobs naturally become a controversial topic. As companies fight to survive the downturn, cost-cutting measures may include retrenchments and/or pay cuts – which itself may be a difficult decision to choose between.

In fact, according to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Citizen unemployment rate stood at 4.3% as at July 2020, with 11,350 people retrenched in 1H2020, and an overwhelming 81,720 employees place on short work-week or temporary layoffs.

Read Also: 5 Singapore Job Statistics We Learned From The Ministry Of Manpower (MOM) 1H2020 Labour Market Report.

Older And Younger Workers Both Impacted

Instinctively, many expect older workers to be most affected – for a combination of reasons, including earning a higher paycheque, being less energetic or hungry, having less up-to-date skills, introducing tech to replace lagging departments entrenched in their old ways and more.

While this is all true, it isn’t just older workers that are impacted – younger workers can be equally affected. In MOM’s 1H2020 Labour Market Report, it was reported that those below the age of 30 had an unemployment rate of 7.3%, up about 2.3  percentage points since June 2018. In contrast, those 60 & Over experienced an increased unemployment rate of 1.4 percentage points since June 2018.

Looking elsewhere, younger employees can also see pockets of vulnerability to staying in their jobs – similar to older groups of workers.

Firstly, fresh graduates are a group of particularly at risk of being left behind. They have no job experience and even less leverage to land a job now, with many more experienced candidates willing to accept a lower salary after getting retrenched.

Younger employees already in jobs can also be affected.

SIA recently announced that all of SIA’s trainee pilots will be let go, some after completing their training. They are likely to be younger and inexperienced pilots, rather than more experienced pilots, who themselves have had to take a steep pay cut.

Sectors that are seen as “younger” have not been entirely spared by COVID-19. GoBear, a FinTech firm, has cut 11% of its staff in its regional offices, which includes Singapore.

Many other examples exist.

A recent announcement by the Lan Transport Authority (LTA) also targeted younger private hire car drivers – setting a new minimum age limit for new private hire car drivers to be at least 30 – getting the policy in line with the minimum age of taxi drivers. At the same time, the government announced a $112 million enhanced Point-to-Point Support Package (PPSP) for taxi and private hire car drivers.

Government Announcements Targeted Help To Older Workers – Balancing Their Greater Impact

In recent weeks, it is also unsurprising that jobs-related announcement dominated the news. Near the start of the month, changes to the Employment Pass and S Pass raised the qualifying wage criteria for the work permits. Typically, more experienced (and older) foreign employees may be earning the higher wages. Thus, younger foreign employees on these work permits may be more affected by the announcement.

Given the (mostly accurate) notion that older workers may be more affected in a downturn, the government has also targeted its schemes to benefit older workers more. A recently-announced scheme – the Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI) provides 50% salary support for older employees aged 40 and above, while it provides 25% salary support for local workers under 40.

Existing schemes such as the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) has also been enhanced to provide greater salary support and course fee subsidy for older Singaporean workers.

Younger Employees Are More Resilient – But Also Can Rely On Targeted Government Schemes

Younger employees have more time and likely more relevant skills to catch up in the workforce, compared to older employees. Thus, they are in a position to help themselves overcome setbacks.

Recognising this, government schemes have been tailored to help older workers more, but have also not entirely neglected younger workers. They also have government schemes to fall back on – with the SGUnited Traineeship Programme catered specifically to those who graduate in 2019 and 2020, complementing another government scheme, the SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways Programme that caters to more experienced workers.

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