Losing your job when you’re young sucks, but not as much as it does when you’re middle aged, have a mortgage to pay off, a family to support or kids whose survival of the education system depends on your ability to pay for their tuition classes.
According to a recent report, only 49%% of Singaporean and PR PMETs who lose their jobs manage to find a new one within 6 months, and it is unknown if these jobs can match their previous salaries.
An estimated 60% of retrenched PMETs are unable to find jobs that offer similar salaries and status as their previous jobs, and are forced to try something completely different.
According to data released by MOM, people in the following sectors are particularly vulnerable:
- Professional services, especially engineering
- Wholesale and retail trade
- Financial services
You might be too young to worry about replacing your job should you get retrenched, but an older friend or relative might be battling retrenchment right now. It might even be a parent or spouse. According to statistics from MOM, 15,580 people were laid off in 2015, with 65% of these people being above the age of 40. Here’s how you can help:
Make sure they know their retrenchment rights
If a company decides to cut a loved one loose, make sure the person knows what he is or is not entitled to.
Unfortunately, the government has decided not to mandate retrenchment benefits.
However, the Employment Act does say that those who are defined as employees within the scope of the Employment Act and have been working for at least two years in the company can request retrenchment benefits. There is no minimum sum, however, so they’ll have to negotiate with the company on their own and might still get a pittance or nothing at all. However, it’s worth a shot.
To qualify, the person has to either earn not more than $2,500, or be a workman earning not more than $4,500. Managers and executives are also excluded.
Anyone who gets retrenched, no matter what their salary, should also look at his employment contract to check that his employer isn’t screwing him over. If the employment contract states that the employer has to give one month’s notice, they have to do just that or pay one month’s salary in lieu.
Even if there is no notice period, those who earn $2,500 and below (or are workmen earning $4,500 and below) might still be entitled to one—those working for the company for at least 5 years must receive at least 4 weeks’ notice (or salary in lieu), those who have been working for over 2 years but less than 5 years should get at least 2 weeks’ notice or salary in lieu, while those who have been working for over 26 weeks but less than 2 years should get at least one week’s notice or salary in lieu.
Alert them to government-run initiatives that might help
Middle-aged retrenched folks need all the help they can get, as statistics are pretty discouraging about the likelihood of replacing their previous salaries.
The government has set up or funds some initiatives to help workers get back on their feet, but frankly speaking, how useful these will be really depends on the person’s previous job and salary, and their expectations for the future. A lot of older people aren’t aware these programmes exist, so if you have a loved one who needs help, point them in the right direction.
Here are some of the available programmes.
- Workforce Development Agency’s Jobs Bank – It’s basically like a free, government-run version of JobsDB that’s tailored to older workers. Other than job ads, the website also contains links to SkillsFuture courses and recruitment events.
- Workforce Development Agency’s Career Centres – These centres provide training and courses designed to help workers upgrade their careers and become more employable. In practice this is more useful for low-skilled workers than it is for PMETs.
- NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) – Their Career Services Centre runs programmes which are supposed to educate worker about their employment options and advise them on which steps to take next their careers. Their activities include job fairs, career support programmes and employability courses.
If a retrenched person is having serious difficulty keeping the family afloat, they might want to approach government-run or funded associations like ComCare, although requirements are very stringent so don’t expect anything if you need help servicing the loan for your Porsche. You have to have exhausted almost all your savings and your family members must not have a combined income of over $1,900 (or $650 per person) before you can receive any help.
Help with the job search
Other than turning to programmes run by the government, older workers might need a helping hand when searching for jobs. Some of them might have begun their careers at a time when job hopping wasn’t the norm, so you might be surprised to find that you have even more experience applying for jobs than they do.
In fact, if it’s been a long time since the retrenched person actually went for an interview, he or she might be unfamiliar with the usual websites that people use in their job hunts. A web savvy young person should know about most of the job-search websites like JobsDB, JobStreet, JobsCentral and so on.
Recruitment agents can also help to do some of the job hunting grunt work, so advise the jobseeker to get in touch with a couple. One of them might actually have a relevant vacancy.
Finally, thanks to social media young people often have wider reach than they think. Once upon a time, a friend’s father got retrenched. I sent out a few messages to people in his industry and within 2 hours received information about possible roles (true story). You might be much younger than the job seeker, but chances are you have friends who work in companies that have suitable roles, so make a FaceBook post or send out a few WhatsApp messages and you might receive a pleasant surprise.
Encourage them to upgrade their skills or help to identify transferable skills
The sad truth is that many older workers are simply no longer employable. Their skills might no longer be relevant in today’s workforce, or their previous salaries could have climbed to the point where nobody would want to pay them that amount to do something younger people are doing for a fraction of the price.
Under such circumstances, trying to get a job similar to the one they were laid off from might be difficult.
If that’s the case, there are two options—skills upgrading, or looking for a job to which their current skills can be transferred.
The most obvious way to upgrade one’s skills is to use the SkillsFuture credit the government has offered all Singaporeans above the age of 25 to take courses that can broaden the job seeker’s skill set.
It’s also a good idea to try to identify transferrable skills that can be used to look for a different role. A young person’s perspective is often useful in these situations, since they might be more aware of the availability of alternative roles in other industries.
For instance, engineers might be able to use their project management skills in other industries, while former bank managers or executives may have wide networks that would make it easy for them to transition to sales roles.
If the retrenched person has a large enough professional or personal network, setting up a business or going into consulting might be an option. Decades of experience are viewed as a plus by potential clients rather than an unnecessary expense.
If the job seeker has really exhausted all avenues, it might be time to just bite the bullet and accept a lower paying job. Many retrenched workers tend to move toward industries like retail or admin. Even if that’s the case, it’s not the end of the world, and there might be an opportunity later on to move back up the career ladder. The key is to never stop trying, so keep encouraging your loved one and help him keep his spirits up.
Do you know anyone who was recently retrenched? Tell us how you can help them in the comments.