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Workers must adapt to change

Is change inevitable?

Workers must adapt to change

More job seekers who have been out of work for at least 25 weeks are finding it harder to get new positions. The struggle of these long-term unemployed workers is worrying.

In 2014 and 2015, the long-term unemployment rate for Singaporeans and permanent residents was between 0.5 per cent and 0.6 per cent.

But over the past two years, the rate has risen to between 0.7 per cent and 0.8 per cent.

Two major factors are fuelling the rise - structural changes in the economy and technological disruption, said analysts, and there is no turning back the tide.

The struggle is particularly daunting for older workers and professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs). In the third quarter, the re-entry rate of retrenched resident workers aged 50 and older who found work in six months was 55.9 per cent, against the national average of 66.4 per cent. For PMETs, it was 63.6 per cent.

Lowering the barriers these two groups have to overcome requires a tweaking of government schemes, change in employers' mindset and, no less important, helping these workers come to terms with the need to start anew.

Having worked for years in a particular industry, there are considerable psychological barriers to overcome before they can switch industries and start at a lower level in a new job.

Employers, used to hiring new graduates with relevant qualifications and skills, will also need time to adopt a mindset willing to give these older workers a chance.

For a start, the Government can tweak existing schemes or introduce new ones to help these workers get over the psychological hurdles in migrating to new and growing sectors.

It would also need to incentivise companies to hire them.

Hopefully, these initial moves will make it easier for both sides to recognise that the changes in the job market are no longer an exception but the new normal.

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