Promoting and Supporting Lifelong Employability for Singapore's Workers Aged 45 and Above

Conducted from 2009 - 2010


Professor Stephen Billett, Visiting Research Fellow 
Institute for Adult Learning

with Peggy Lim, Seet Jun Feng, Soh Yong Chuan (WDA) Norris Wong, Thomas Yeo, Gillian Ong, 
Koh Tat Suan, Michael Choy, Marcelino Lizaso, Joyce Tan and Jaseline Ang (IAL)


What is the question?

What are the employment experiences and CET needs of mature-aged workers in Singapore?


Why is it important?

With one of the highest aged populations globally, supporting lifelong employability is a national priority for Singapore. For the WSQ system to help meet this imperative, we have to understand the aspirations and CET needs of mature-aged workers.


How did we do the research?

42 interviews were conducted with mature workers from a range of occupations and a survey of 226 workers aged over 45 was used to explore, verify and extend what had been found in the interviews.


What did we learn?

  • Overwhelmingly, mature-aged workers surveyed/interviewed were willing to engage in continuing education and training (CET).
  • Targeted CET activities are crucial for those without qualifications, particularly mature-aged female workers, whose possession of qualifications and participation in well-paid and age-tolerant work is below that of other Singaporean residents.
  • The provision of CET for mature-aged workers will only be effective if workplaces are welcoming of their contributions and meet their needs, for instance accessible entry and bridging support for those without educational success beyond schooling.
  • Consistent evidence was provided of workers who are adaptable and active in their learning, and willing to learn, contrary to the commonly assumed limitations of mature aged workers (i.e. reluctant to learn, not adaptable, have difficulty with new technology).
  • Finding satisfaction in work is reported as a key factor in remaining in the workforce and continuing to direct personal effort to learning and advancement, particularly amongst PMETs.
  • Pressure of work was evident amongst more highly skilled, qualified and younger respondents, signalling a danger that valued workers may retire early if work conditions are not meeting their needs.
  • What an individual considers an appropriate retirement age and whether they view themselves as an older worker will vary from person to person.


What are the implications?

To sustain lifelong employability across Singapore’s working population requires:

  • CET provisions that link with high-level and highly regarded qualifications;
  • Workplaces fully utilising and developing mature-aged employees’ capacities, including recognition of their contributions to others’ learning;
  • Training providers effectively engaging Singapore’s growing mature-age population through flexible teaching and content, and providing highly regarded certification;
  • Mature-age workers effectively directing their own engagement in CET, and investing time and resources in sustaining their lifelong employability;
  • A national charter to ensure workplaces, training providers and workers fulfil their commitment to Singapore as a nation that values and supports lifelong employability; and
  • Guidance and support to assist and advise workers, particularly women, in engaging in appropriate CET choices and in maintaining their sense of self and worth as workers and learners.

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