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A lesson in hiring older workers from British post office (Could Royal Mail Learn from Singapore)

11 Feb 2018, 10:44 ... ost-office

A trip to the post office during his student days in Britain drove home to Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing the importance of redesigning jobs for older workers.

It was in the late 1980s and Mr Chan was studying economics at Christ's College at Cambridge University.

Wanting to ship his books back home, he packed them into a 20kg box and lugged it to the post office, only to be told that it did not accept 20kg boxes. He was told to repack the books into boxes of 5kg each, which would have cost more in total to ship back.

Recalling this, Mr Chan quips: "I thought they were trying to smoke me. I looked at (the postal worker) suspiciously, I didn't understand."

It was only on further reflection that he realised the Royal Mail's real purpose - to make sure the older postal workers would be able to carry the boxes.

Over the past 10 years, more older people have been employed, and the proportion of people aged 65 and older who are working has gone up from 14.4 per cent to 25.8 per cent.

Mr Chan, who is also labour chief, says Singapore, too, must redesign jobs to accommodate older workers as the population ages, so that those who want to work can find gainful employment.

While they may have been slowed down by age or have poor eyesight, for instance, they are still capable, he adds.

Sometimes it is about making sure the workflow is designed with such workers in mind, he says, citing an example of a canteen in Japan run by three "80-year-old aunties".

People order and pay for food from a machine, and there are implements on each table for them to clean up after themselves and a tray-return area. The workflow allows the women to run the place, and "concentrate on the highest value-add, which is cooking the best dishes", he says.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo says jobs are already being redesigned for older workers. The security industry, for instance, is working on using technology such as closed-circuit television cameras and video analytics to augment the work of security guards so fewer guards will have to work the graveyard shifts.

"You can't mandate the older person to work, you can't mandate the company to hire the older person, but you can improve the conditions to the point where they want to do it," she says.

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