Age an obstacle to finding work: Senior job seekers

April 15, 201610:32 am295 views
Age an obstacle to finding work: Senior job seekers
About 300 job seekers attended the CDAC job fair yesterday, where 1,500 jobs from 22 participating companies were on offer. Many senior citizens, who thronged the fair, were concerned that they may be losing out on job opportunities because of their age. PHOTO: WEE TECK HIAN

Since March, finding another full-time job has become Madam Han’s utmost priority and she has been painstakingly filling out countless forms to apply to five different hospitals.

The 55-year-old, who did not want to give her full name, left her healthcare job of nine years previously due to personal reasons, and she worries that she might not be able to get another one to support her husband, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, or pay off their housing loans.

“I just keep applying and applying, but I don’t know what the outcome will be,” she said in Mandarin.

Joining her yesterday at a two-day job fair at the Bukit Batok Community Club were about 300 other job seekers. It is the first such event organised this year by the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC).

Mature job seekers turned up in droves, with some coming all the way from Tampines. Some 1,500 jobs were available from 22 participating companies in the food and beverage, retail, logistics, security, healthcare, shipping and construction sectors, with many located in the western part of Singapore.

Madam Tan Bee Keok, 48, who previously worked in the banking and finance sector for two decades, said the issue of a worker’s age still remains the biggest challenge in them getting re-hired. “Employers tend to look at our age first and just reject, or we don’t hear anything from them,” she said. “They prefer to hire younger workers.”

A lack of flexibility in jobs is another barrier, she lamented, pointing out that she was given little leeway to take time off or leave early to care for her aged mother who has heart problems.

Another job seeker who identified himself only as Mr Chua said that his limited English language skills hindered his chances. The 58-year-old, who has worked as a factory worker for the last 30 years, said in Mandarin: “After working at the same job for so many years, I don’t know where to go … there are not a lot of options for me.”

He said that he is willing to take up any job, and has started going for English classes every Saturday to improve his conversational skills.

Mr Jasni Mohd Hasar, 43, a retrenched worker from the oil and gas industry, told TODAY that his limited computer and IT skills may put him at a disadvantage. “I don’t even have a laptop at home to practise … It’s really quite stressful for me.”

Addressing the anxieties of these job seekers, human resource executive Richard Wong from construction firm Samwoh said at the job fair: “It’s not how long you’ve not worked, but more of your attitude. As long as you’re willing to learn, we will train you.”

Lawyer Murali Pillai, 48, the candidate named by the ruling People’s Action Party for the upcoming by-election in Bukit Batok constituency, was spotted talking to job seekers at the job fair. He told TODAY: “Some industries are going through restructuring, like the oil and gas industry, and in the banking sector … I’ve met people who have been affected by the downturn, so we try to see how we can help them (in job placement) and (encourage) reskilling.”

There were more than 600 job applications yesterday, and the CDAC said it is looking to hold its next job fair in Punggol in July.

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