AMID a tight labour market in Singapore, almost all local private sector workers retiring last year were offered their old jobs back.

And according to an annual Manpower Ministry (MOM) survey, most accepted, many with no change in job scope or pay.

Employment was offered to 97per cent of local workers who turned 62 in the year ending June 2011, up from 94per cent the year before.

Employers said this was unsurprising, given government subsidies for hiring older workers.

Singapore National Employers Federation executive director Koh Juan Kiat added that with more job vacancies than job seekers last year, companies were already hard-pressed to fill places.

'One of the easiest solutions was to extend the employment of their older workers,' he said.

Keeping older local workers also helps firms retain foreigners, noted Association of Small and Medium Enterprises president Chan Chong Beng.

'If you don't have Singaporean workers, you can't have foreign workers either,' he said, referring to rules which set a maximum ratio of foreign to local workers.

Two-thirds of retiring workers were allowed to stay on their existing contracts, with no change to their pay or terms.

The rest were offered new contracts - almost all for the same job as before.

Wages stayed the same for four-fifths of those re-employed in the same job. Most of the rest saw lower pay, with a median pay cut of 12 per cent.

One employee who was re-employed with no pay cut was Madam Lim Ong Nga, who turned 62 in June last year.

The senior accounts executive at Marina Mandarin Singapore was given a new contract, but with the same job scope and pay.

Though her annual leave and medical benefits were cut, this did not bother her.

'I haven't seen a doctor for a long time,' she said.

Labour shortages aside, re-employment is also important because the experience of older workers makes them an asset, said Marina Mandarin spokeswoman Ernawati Setijo.

Older workers also tend to be more loyal, said Ms Gina Chua, Kopitiam's assistant director of human resources.

Elsewhere in its report, MOM noted that last year, almost eight in 10 firms - up from 77 per cent in 2010 - had measures in place for employees to work beyond age 62.

More firms also had a policy of discussing re-employment with retiring workers: 75 per cent, up from 61 per cent before.

And more were doing it at least six months before workers turn 62, in line with tripartite guidelines.

The survey was the last one before the Retirement and Re-Employment Act came into effect this year. The Act requires employers to offer eligible workers the choice of working beyond the retirement age of 62, first to 65 and then to 67.

Mr Koh said it was 'extremely encouraging' that most firms had begun re-employment before the law kicked in.

In a post on the ministry's blog yesterday, Minister of State Tan Chuan-Jin said he was glad to see private firms embracing the idea of using older workers.

'Our Silver Workforce will increasingly become a valuable asset that companies should look at preserving as we ease our reliance on foreign manpower, and move towards a more productivity-driven economy,' he wrote.

It is also 'about doing right by our older Singaporeans', helping them keep a regular income and save for retirement, he added.