Apr 7, 2009

Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians Aged Over 40

Here is an interesting post from Lucky Singaporean:

"PMET is an abbreviation for professionals, managers, executives and technicians. The employment prospects for a PMET above 40 is poor during the good times....and worse than poor during the bad times. During the good times, the govt coined this euphemistic term "structural unemployment" to describe the problem.

The proposed govt solution has been the same in good times and bad- retraining, retraining, retraining. When retraining does not work, what does the govt propose? More retraining. Right now the govt is proposing to have more 40 conversion schemes for PMETs [Link].

Do you think they will solve the problem if they have 100 conversion schemes?... make that 200. The problem is not the skills but the age of these people and the ability of employers to practice age discrimination a.k.a ageism."

Lucky then goes on to point out what he thinks is the root cause of the problem. Do click on the earlier link.

Here's what I think is another cause of the problem. Traditionally, employees get a salary increment every year (barring exceptionally bad years). You get the annual salary increment just for being there (in contrast, promotions and bonuses are more directly linked to your actual work performance).

Over X years, an employee gets X years' worth of annual salary increments. When you're a junior member of the staff, this doesn't necessarily add up to much. However, the longer you work, the more expensive you become, as your salary is increasing year after year.

Then this becomes the key question. Is the value of your work contributions keeping pace with the small but steady increase in your salary, year after year after year? For many PMETs over 40, the answer is - apparently not.

In subsequent posts, I will discuss further.


Eliz said...

Mr Wang, I'm interested to find out what you think... how should we as individuals cope with this ageism, besides 1) more retraining, or 2) work in the same co and fear retrenchment, feel unable to move, once we hit 35?

I work in the IT dept of a mfg company. In my dept, there is a 50+ yo colleague who moved from accounting function to IT 5 years ago. We do exactly the same kind of work, her salary must be at least 4 times mine, on top of the pension she'll get. She's able to move from accounting to IT partly because her job grade is not very high. She received yearly increments in the past three dacades, but not many promotions. So she is still relatively 'cheap' compared to others her age. I wonder how sustainable this is in the future?

Actually for my career, I'll also opt for new assignments to grow in different dimensions, instead of promotions. This is another issue I'll like to hear your views about.

Anonymous said...

IMHO a typical salary growth will be exponential at the initial stage (20 to 35 yrs old) and tapered off to a slight slope in the 40 to 50s, reflecting your contribution @ tat level to a company.

If a person at the same position earning $X amount of dollars with an increment of x% every. The compounding effect will make this person earn much more than his output, in say 20 to 30 years time.

But having said that, there is a lot of ppl out there that is in this situation. The retretchment may then be deemed to be a market mechanism to adjust the salary to the output.

the above is applicable for PMETs... but not for the C-class executive. The question is how many of us make it to the C-class??


Anonymous said...

why not make it legal to fake your age when applying for a job.

this way, at least you get an interview.

Anonymous said...

So at age 85, MM Lee is a white elephant and how much are we paying him?

Mr Wang Says So said...

But he doesn't get annual salary increments.

His salary is also not linked to the value he provides.

Anonymous said...

Hey guys, before we all get seriously self righteous, let me ask a question.

How many of us, truly, truly, truly deserve the salary we draw.

Is the top investment banker trully the worlds best investment banker, or only the best of the small handfull of ppl given a chance to get a decent education and of that handfull, the best of the fingerfull who were lucky in their career choice.

In a truly fair, equal oppurtunity environment, where all 5 billion of the worlds population is competing, how many of us deserve a decenet life and should not be relegated to starving in africa because we are just not talented enough.

Anonymous said...

Mr wang,

the situation you describe is very common everywhere, esp in the public sector. You see a lot of old wood just floating by life, not necessarily capable, but lucky to be promoted as their seats are warm enough, and enjoying increment after increment over the years, the salary can be quite substantial. (don't forget they get 3 months bonus average out over good and bad times)

Even for those who don't get promoted, their auto increment over the years is also very good. And a lot of such deadwood are not as capable or contributing more than the younger ones.

If I am an employer, I will not reward based on that system, instead one should be assessed based on skills, knowledge, experience, and contribution, regardless of age. In this fast global economy, there is no room for such complacency of older workers.

Solo Bear said...

Mr Wang, I do not agree with you fully. I believe that one of the biggest problem is employers' mindset, rather than pay issue.

Many a time, there are PMETs who are willing to take pay cuts to make themselves competitive. All things then being equal, which would the employer employ? The 55+ experienced guy or the 28+ year old guy?

From employers' perspective, even if the older workers draw the same pay as the younger ones, the issues on the employers' minds are:

1. Health costs
2. Ability to acquire new/more skills.
3. Employee's potential growth.
4. Productivity of employee.

Citing the pay as the main cause is being too simplistic.

Just my thoughts.

Mr Wang Says So said...

"How many of us, truly, truly, truly deserve the salary we draw."

In an retrenchment exercise, your view on this question doesn't matter. Only the view of the people running the retrenchment exercise matters.

Mr Wang Says So said...

"why not make it legal to fake your age when applying for a job.

this way, at least you get an interview."

The way it's done in some countries is that the potential employer is not allowed to ask you to state your age or to provide a photograph, in your job application.

Anonymous said...

"The way it's done in some countries is that the potential employer is not allowed to ask you to state your age or to provide a photograph, in your job application."

From experience in advertising for staff, I know any non-disclosure defeats the purpose. We will just be flooded with resumes and calls ! At the end of the day, applicants are still shortlisted and those without relevant details/experience are unlikely to be interviewed.

Damn big head said...

Wang, you might have missed this point. Why is pay pegged to years of service instead of portfolio assigned?

You see, this "factory mindset" - note I coined this, so MIWs browsing this don't misuse it, is wrong. People get increments just for staying on.

Employers should review how much a portfolio is worth every year, and pay accordingly. Even if that person handling the portfolio is much younger in experience or age. This way, ageism is not an issue. Because, either you take this pay for his portfolio, or that pay for that portfolio.

If you take more portfolios, I pay accordingly.

Many empolyers nowadays are burdened ironically, not by the young people, but the old ones.

Their pay scheme is fixed, and they are drawing high pay compared to the new entrants. I know of laboratory technicians, O levels grads whose job scopes almost never changed for a decade drawing $6,000-$8,000, while young PMET are squeezed to $2,000-$3,000 a month despite higher responsibilities and workloads.

The promotion of PMETs are also limited by the oldies who sit there, unable to retire due to them supporting the economic bubble.

If companies, Ministries, Stat Boards start to rationalise their manpower needs tomorrow, how may oldies will find themselves burdened with property "investments" they should never have made?

Seniority pay is a no-no. But employers also should not get away with exploiting workers by hiring foreigners to lower costs, instead of seeking to rationalise their OWN pay and rental costs.

How many employers are using "entertainment funds" to pay for their family meals, giving scholarships to their own kids, etc?

See how screwed the situation is? Where are the checks and balances? Whose job is it to check on these? IRAS? MOM? MCYS?

Anonymous said...

From experience in advertising for staff, I know any non-disclosure defeats the purpose. We will just be flooded with resumes and calls ! At the end of the day, applicants are still shortlisted and those without relevant details/experience are unlikely to be interviewed.

would faking your age work in this case?

Ghost said...

The Singapore government believes that re-training is answer to all our problems when it clearly is not. According to them, re-training is the answer from fighting inflation to the globe economic crisis.
Another reason for the poor employment prospects for a PMET above 40 (beside age and salary) is competition. Singapore is still accepting foreign workers into the country and even young Singapore grads are having a hard time finding employment. For a jobless PMET above 40, their chances are even worse.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang,

I think the scenario you painted may be true of public sectors or large firms, but not common in the mid-sized private firms. E.g. even in the boom times of mid-90's, at a MNC reputable private firm, the deadwood were given increments below inflation rate and no bonus. Thus, they effectively had a pay-cut in real income year after year.

I am hitting 40's myself. My thoughts are the times have changed. E.g. Our parents generation can work as a clerk their whole life and still have some savings left for retirement. Housing was cheap then. Medical affordable for the poor, because most were assumed to be poor. Your skill set can last you an entire career lifetime. You can knock-off after work on time for dinner with the whole family.

With my generation post-65'ers, if you're a grad, you only start your career at 20's, with less than 15 years before you're tagged too old for employment. With infinite supply of foreign labour, HR simply dumps the applications of anyone above 35. It does not matter if your potential boss prefer an experienced person, because he/she will not get to see your application. If you're lucky, you make enough within your 1st 15 years to pay-off the housing (that has sky-rocketed), then move on to other stuff for making ends meet.

More training will not solve the problem. The main problem is Singapore's economy is not designed to be resilient. What to do if one is stuck in Singapore? Switch to whatever line for survival. If you're an employee, expect to work 12 to 16 hour days. That's the reality. Forget about waiting for the Singapore government to change rules on ageism, foreign "talents" (frankly, many who are just plain hot-air), etc. The PAP dominated government has no interest in the welfare (dirty word in the PAP's dictionary) of the Singaporean citizens, just focusing on their KPIs, which is growing the GDP whatever the means.

Interesting movie above. Maybe recently legalised life organ trading is an option for the desperate in Singapore? Is there a "voluntary euthanasia" option for legalised life donors coming up next?

David Tan said...

Still doesn't explain why PMETs aged over 40 (or 35) willing to take $2k per month are unable to get jobs.

A factory I once worked for automatically rejects applicants for technicians over 30, because there is a ready supply of young foreigners.

Mr Wang Says So said...

I have a theory for that too. It's an unexpected backlash from our Confucian, "respect your seniors" Asian mentality.

See, suppose I were a 35-year-old manager and I needed to hire one person. I have two job candidates, one aged 50 years old, and the other aged 25 years old. Both are willing to work for the same salary, say $3,500.

All other things being equal, I may feel more comfortable hiring the younger candidate. Why? Because I feel more able to order the younger guy around; to tell him to do things; and to make him listen to my instructions. I may find it psychologically difficult to take on the Boss role, with an older person.

Why? Because the Confucian culture subconsciously instilled in me is that if I were dealing with a senior person, I have to respect him and be deferential, just because he's more senior. This is somewhat complicating, because as we all know in modern times, being older doesn't necessarily mean that you know any better.

To avoid all these complications, I may just opt to hire the younger person.

Anonymous said...

whether you are P, M, E or T, if you want to keep your job, you gotta be the domain expert in what you are doing.

Ageism is not the reason for those who are in their 40s and not getting job. Incompetence is. Read the article about youngsters now shun from service jobs? I guess PMETs in their 40s now are no better.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mr Wang

You work in an Investment Bank.
Go to your IT department and see how many local Singaporeans are employed there ... I am not sure too many of the folks there believes in Confucius ...

I am quite familiar with retrenchments and generally it is political and Singaporeans are not renowned for looking out for each other.

Btw do PMETs over 40 in Confucius Korea have this problem? Japan? USA? Oz?

oops goto go, folks in white coats are after me ...


Damn big head said...

Wang another thing, is education. Or how our education is structured. It is a model suited (and worked very well) for 1980s, not the 21st century and 1st world nations.

If you want to switch lines, you want to do a diploma or degree to qualify.

Try applying to NUS, NTU, SMU, and all the Polytechnics see how?

"You got a first degree/diploma, very polite line of rejection."

Even if they don't reject you, you don't get subsidised tuition fees, despite you having to pay for your family (gahmen says give birth more) at the same time.

Basically, structured unemployment is here to stay. Because our gahmen believes we "have limited resources", but can blow about a hundred or so billions USD in 8 months. And this structured unemployment, is structured in by non-progressive planning.

How many of those managing the Ministries are just trying to stable the ship to maximise ship profits instead of using it as a tool as part of the larger economy?

How many of the old policies actually are not suited for current situation and should be changed or thrown out?

You see, when you have "natural progression" for scholars in civil service, they have a hard time understanding and doing things. This scholar thing should now be relooked and they should start from scratch. Kind of ridiculous to say someone is a talent based mostly if not solely on A levels results and an interview when he/she is 18 years old!

O I digress. Sorry.

But yes, where is the plan for continual education, switching career education plans?

Must everything be based on international rank and research everything instead of ensuring unemployment is not structural?

Anonymous said...

Ageism causing PMETs to be unemployed?

Heh heh. Guess who are in those management positions deciding who to interview or hire?

Pre-65ers who are themselves past 40. Tell me the definition of irony.

Anonymous said...

"All other things being equal, I may feel more comfortable hiring the younger candidate. Why? Because I feel more able to order the younger guy around; to tell him to do things; and to make him listen to my instructions."

Mr Wang, may I add 1 more point - the older PMETs are more experienced but tend to have difficulty adjusting to new challenges and environs. And like it or not, physically we all age and that counts in jobs which require international travel regularly or standing long hours on our feet (eg technicians).

As an employer, we've hired older workers in their late 40s and 50s as many were able to commence immediately. Most quit shortly. For reasons such as: long travel from east to west, tiring,work place too warm, got another job near home,daughter wants her to stay home, no direct bus, joint pain acts up, etc, etc ! !

Of course, we do have gems who are loyal and punctual and non-demanding but these are few and far in between.

Retraining does not help.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Wang,

What you have is theory. What I have is real-life experiences.

There are age discrimination in many executive jobs, many companies except as a cleaners, delivery man, Security Guards, taxi-drivers to name a few. There are many "hidden" graduates in their forties, fifties, etc who are in those jobs because they can't get back to their "old job" even for lower pay.

I am no exceptional. A few years ago, I went for an interview at a local MNC based at the airport. The first statement which came from the HR, when she saw me, was that they are looking for a younger person. Moreover, that company employ many younger persons from China and provides them with training. But they refuse to train our local retrenched graduates.

That was just one of those companies which prefer to employ a FT and provides them with training. Yes, there are many more and I knew who are they.

I doubt you can understand the emotional and psychological pains which many retrenched PMETs have endure for many years but prefer to keep it silent. I never forget some of the humiliation which I have rececived from some HR during interview.

I don't know what more to say but to bear with it and live with it.

Parka said...

If one really can't find a job in these bad times, then one has to create the job itself - starting a business.

There's only a limited amount of jobs in the current economic crisis. These jobs will only be created with new companies, new products and services. These take time, so I expect bad times to last until 2010.

There's no reasons why these PMETs cannot be hired. Economics still rules despite ageism. If you can provide more value than your salary, you have the change to be hired.

I really cannot understand why employers will use age to discriminate against older workers. There's just no economic sense at all.

Anonymous said...

I think everybody has a point. And I think whether you will be retrenched also depends on your luck.

So be lucky! The luckiest are those Ministers without portfolio in the Prime Minister's Office and the sole one (luckily no deputy!) at the Istana.

Onlooker said...

Ageism is the wrong conclusion.

We have imported artificial competitions that unduly stress a system that had worked b4.

I'm sure the Garment want a solution to this mess that they created but now the issues have the potential of exploding in their face so It time they prove their worth, it's pointless to pay them so much for half baked solution or copied solution.

Did job credit really worked?

Btw Are we really able to accommodate 5000 more"pinoy from the nation of servant" for the Sentosa IR with so many locals and FTs in dire state now?
As Guaranteed by Arroyo.

Alan Wong said...

Some other reasons for not hiring PMET aged over 40 :-

- overqualified & more unlikely to remain at job for long

- possibly a threat to their immediate bosses

- can be overly petty or calculative

- may have a stubborn mindset & unwilling to listen or change

- may be too independent minded & more likely to disobey instructions

- may tend to be egoistic

- may get involved in office politics

In such a case, then no amount of skills re-training will ever help.

Anonymous said...

1. All these problem can be solved very easily: anti age-discrimination law!

2. Anti-age discrimination law is effective because even if the company does not disclose the reason for not hiring an older candidate, it can be investigated by the authority upon complaints by alleged viticms and if it is not able to come up with a good reason for hiring the younger candidate - i.e. a reason other than age - backed by evidence in labkc adn white (eg. younger candidate has higher qualification and that qualification is needed to do the job), it can be sued by the discriminated victim. If the amount sued is high, there is incentive on the part of the victim to expose such wrongdoings as well as motivation on the part of the company to be careful not to discriminate.

3. It is true that many elderly are
not as adaptable, or nor keen to take instruction from a younger boss or whatever. Similarly, it is also true that many malays are...., many Chiense are... many Christians are.... And that's precisely why it is not ok to stereotype!!! Because it works against the few(?) in the stereotyped group, who do not fit into the stereotype. We, as individuals, and the country as a whole, miss out on potential spouse/friends/talents if we reject an entire group based on stereotype. Thus, the country must have anti-stereotype law (in this case, anti-age discrimination).

4. All of the above implemented in 1st world western countries.

5. Singapore is NOT interested in becoming a 1st world country!!!! In the words of LKY, we are here to serve the world - currently the western companies and later companies from the 2 superpower in asia (India and China). He wants Singapore remain a colony, forever.

6. Thus, our education system is suppressed (only 10% allowed to go university during Mr. Wang's time while Finland has 18 universities and Hong Kong has 7 etc). Our employment law are heavily biased. And so on.

7. Ask yourself: Do you want Singapore to rise to become a 1st-world country with 1st-world wage, 1st-world health care ratio (of doctor to patient for eg), 1st-world education (with 20 students per class), 1st world whatever! If yes, Singapore is not the place for you.

Mr Wang Says So said...

"As an employer, we've hired older workers in their late 40s and 50s as many were able to commence immediately. Most quit shortly. For reasons such as: long travel from east to west, tiring,work place too warm, got another job near home,daughter wants her to stay home, no direct bus, joint pain acts up, etc, etc ! !"

I see your point, but I'm not terribly convinced by it. The older chaps come with their set of problems, but so do the younger ones.

Eg if I wanted to generalise, I could say that younger workers always like to go out & party; they have BGR problems; they are less mature and sensible; they are more likely to job-hop; or quit work to do Masters degree etc; they have a lot of existential angst about "Is this really the right job for me? What is the kind of career I would really love?"; the women give birth and go on maternity leave; the men aged below 40 go for 2 weeks ICT per year; or have to leave office early for RT. Etc.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang @ 7:32
Yes, thank you and I'm sure there are lots more generalizations we can have a go at.
To Anon @ 12:12 and the like.
We all grow older by the day. Let's not be stuck on ourselves while we are young and vital. I know lots of older folks who don't stereotype the young ones and that gives the latter the space to outperform in spite of all the generalizations Mr Wang has raised.

Anonymous said...

Please people, don't get carried away that ageism is the MAIN cause.

As long the FT floodgate remains open, Singaporean of all ages will be affected by job losses or unable to get a job. Our wages are going down all these years and living cost going up like a superman. In one of my ex-companies, a graduate mainland chinese works for 12 hours per day, 6 days a week at $1,800 per month. Given the choice, a company will employ a tiong-kok-lan than a singaporean. On the other hand, another company will pay top-dollar for a talk-big and useless keling who eventually get rid of the local and bring his oversea keling gangs over. All these are Facts.

Hence, ageism plus FT diminishes job opportunity and progress for Singaporean. We are First World Country but with a third world life. We look good at the outside but begins to rot internally for the majority. So much for Swiss standard of living. So much for Golden Age. Very pathetic. signnnn.

Anonymous said...

All the above sums up the whole issue.

put together,

1) Anti-ageim law e.g. no asking of age in job application

2) Tying renumeration to job worth, regardless of age. Of course, the entire workforce's mindset must change to accept that.

No need to be paiseh about respect, confucianism at the workplace, let's all be professional and mature about it

3)Opportunities for lifelong upgrade, regardless of age.

Not talking about those token training courses of a few days, or pre-selected industry by WDA, but real going back to school.

E.g. if one goes to nursing school at age 40, still can contribute 20 years

by means of: review uni entry age discrimmation, remove artificial suppression of uni places, mature candidate funding

For this, the education funding policy must change to make it easier for one to do so.

4) govt to contribute more percentage of earnings from investments for social betterment, not just one sole purpose of increasing national reserve figure

actually, first world countries already have all these in place. We are far behind.

Anonymous said...

To add on from my early post.

Many of the retrenched PMET since 1998 have been talking about it for many years. What solutions do our garment have? Opening the FT gate and retraining? Have these solved our problems? Or perhaps we should continue to blame it on "it happen everywhere" or your skill is out-dated or you do not have the required.... or created more false hope by "mentioning" some successful re-employed PMET in the papers.

Whenever, this re-training issue come out, I only see more monies going down the drain and Training Institutions smiling all the way to the banks.

Mr Wang, many unemployed PMET who have been through many retrenchments since 1998 are tired of bringing up such issue again and again. Many of us just are not keen to talk more about it but live with it and solved our own problem. After all talk is free.

I knew that I wrote these comments with lot of frustration. I am not targeting at anybody. My sincere apologise if it hurts any forumers.

nex100 said...

I've talked to a lot of people when it comes to salaries and basically, we the sheltered lot of protected species (being singaporeans) take for granted an annual increment in salary to cope with inflation. When I asked about how they (each individual) justify their annual increment, 90% of the people replied 'Does it come with the job?' or 'Isn't it compulsory to give annual increment?'.

Let us be reminded, companies give out annual increments to make us stay in a job and it is given on how they value our services to the company. If one person were to give bad service (performs poorly), would you want to pay for bad service?

Thus do not take annual increments for granted and justify your existence in your company. Then as you get older, you do not have to worry about you being old and more expensive and will be next in line on the retrenchment list. That is because you have worked for X number of years, all these while the company knows you are giving good service to the company and thus will not risk you for another new recruit who might or might not perform well.

It is often when people get increments for just being there that when a company goes for 'slimming', they will be first layer of 'fats' to be rid of.

So there is no fear of aging as long as you justify your existence and continue to provide good services to your company. No one will want to get rid of a good vendor for no absolute reason.

Anonymous said...

Jobs for Foreigners, NS for Singaporeans!

Anonymous said...

One solution that has been suggested is to look at what other governments do to help their people. See article and the posts found in:


This solution is particularly relevant given the fact that much of Singapore's economy is dependent on external factors. Surely more diverse and innovative ways are needed to create jobs in order to increase the pool of job opportunities available in Singapore. Sadly, we don’t know if our government has or, if they’ve not, will consider the route suggested in this article.

Anonymous said...

While the talk is on retraining, the fact is that Spore companies do not really value skills. Google pays their top programmers almost as much as they pay their VPs. Spore companies prefer to employ indian programmers who treats Spore as a springboard to Silicon Valley. Our best programmers get "promoted" to "management" and no longer develop their coding skills. So when these "managers" turn 40, how difficult are they to replace? Too easy, almost anyone can do project management, so they are the first ones to go.

A true technology company will find it really hard to get rid of the bespectacled software coder as he is actually the backbone of the company.

Yes, it is true that the yearly inflation pad makes the older workers less employable. In a true knowledge based economy however, you should not see this happening as these workers "should" be the backbone of the company.

But today, they are so easy to replace cos they occupy no niche that cannot be easily replaced by a younger cheaper worker or an immigrant worker.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at April 8, 2009 10:52 AM wrote: "No one will want to get rid of a good vendor for no absolute reason".

I have a personal experience to share. In my 30's, my incapable ex-boss in her 40's found me a threat to her managerial position. She tried to make me a scapegoat for every little issue. An absolute reason can simply be an insecure or incapable boss, not necessary the employee at fault. Even the clients complain about her, but "management by helicopter" believes the bullshit reports she submit.

After I left, I started my own company and competed with my ex-employer at different client sites. I won the bids because I deliver. But the truth is, it's a tough life being your own boss.

Anonymous said...

I work for an American IT firm but based in Singapore. Back in US, I have colleagues who are grandfathers working as systems engineers, and they work side by side with guys in their 20s or 30s. There is certainly no age descrimination as long as they can contribute to the company.

Living on borrowed time said...

Just ask yourself one question.
Does our singapore government really care???

Anonymous said...

What Lucky Tan was addressing was a social issue but obviously Mr Wang has a different take. This caused me to be a bit confused when I first read this post of Mr Wang.

The social aspect of the issue is that ultimately society is about people and people has to survive, people need jobs, need a certain level of income to feed their families, people who are citizens of a country have the first priority to be looked after by the government they elected.

But PAP took a different tack which is that of turning the social issue into an issue that arises out of what it claims is the result of the play of free market forces.

This is why PAP has brought into this country an untold number of foreigners based on this free market concept which PAP arbitrarily applies for our society, for our market BUT certainly not when it comes to the arena of political contest.

It is a PAP ploy to keep the economy humming but surely not doing good for its own people.

So using this free market concept so cunningly, PAP nows tells our PMETs who are actually professional and skilled Singaporeans that they are simply not good enough. So you mean all the foreigners without 40 conversion schemes meant for Singaporeans are better lah? You see the trick of PAP now?

For that matter, if our PMETs are not good enough and requires up to 40 conversion schemes to make them more employable, then what other Singaporeans would ever be good enough?

So lets not be tricked by PAP's despicable design, irresponsible and heartless as it is toward its own people.

And so stop nodding in silly agreement to this PAP story that this increasing problem of unemployable PMETs is all the fault of Singaporeans.

Talk about free market, to begin with there is never such a thing as a completely free market anywhere in the world. There are laws on immigration, on intake of foreign workers, labour unions and communities to fight for livelihood of citizens in practically every country.

Only here in Singapore, all such regulations and movements are selectively used and abused by PAP to serve its own despicable designs.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous at April 8, 2009 4:33 PM who works at an American IT firm.

I agree with your observation. It is the same with other real 1st world countries, e.g. in UK, Holland, Germany. People there are also not so worried about yearly increment as they have social security for their retirement after working 20+ years.

I think this idea of older people not taking well to working under younger folks is a generalisation based on past local corporate culture, not necessary true of today's mid-lifers. It may be applicable to older folks aged about 60's now, who were socialised into "respect-the-seniors" corporate culture in their youth. People who still insist on being called Mr or Mdm "so-and-so" out-of-respect, whatever their job.

The current breed of mid-lifers are the post-independence children. These are people who had to adapt quickly to computers, internet, mobile working, etc, after leaving school. In the 1990's, these generation X-ers (in their 20's) were accused by those in the 40's of lack of respect. Thus, the stereotype is really of the 40-something in the 1990's who are now in their 60's.

My experience at various MNCs is such that everyone from CEO to the janitor goes by their 1st name. Respect is due from personal influence, not by seniority alone. Even in 90's there are situations, common in IT, where the boss is younger than the subordinate, but respect is there for the young and capable bosses. Of course, there is the occasional "mock" MNC which does adopt the international corporate culture but stick to the "respect-the-elders" context.

Thus, we have outdated stereotypes working against the current batch of mid-lifers. This is on top of the shortened economic cycles (3 recessions in 10 years, compared with once in 10 years up to the 80's), and open influx of cheap foreign labour.

Bottomline, we are not a 1st world country in terms of government policies in focusing on citizen's rights and welfare. Do not wait for the PAP government to save you. Your welfare is not part of the PAP government's KPI for their bonuses. Find your own solution or vote PAP out.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Wang,

You mentioned you were going to post more on this...

May I enquire what are your proposed solutions to the situation in which the situation you have laid out?

Rather than just critique, what are your proposed solutions? Please do share.

Jack Ryan

Ghost said...

To Anno: April 9, 2009 12:43AM

I don't agree this is a problem of 1st world or 3rd world countries. U go to Malaysia or Indonesia and you don't see the same problem there as in Singapore.
Singapore has this problem with ageism because employers can get away with firing people for any reason under the sun.
However I agree with Onlooker that ageism is the wrong conclusion. Foreign competition for jobs is the main reason for the poor employment prospects for a PMET above 40.

Anonymous said...

Alan Wong, you wrote quite a list of defects about the senior people. They are probably true to some extent but remember someday you will come to that too ... people age lah and some young and furious think they are useless ... of course they have not enough intelligence to consider how they got into their present situation in the first place without seniors like their parents.

So much for wisdom of the such young minds and the stupidity of the old.

Pissed off 20s said...

Why discuss only ageism? PMETs in their 40s are sacked and cannot find re-employment mostly because of what LKY said. They are too pampered.

If anything, it is because LKY has been too good a father looking after that generation which voted for him, sticking by him all these years. Now they are incapable to adjust quickly.

How about those under 40s? They are the ones getting 3 recessions in 10 years, low wage increments, high inflation, foreign competition, and soon the same fate of those currently in their 40s.

What more, those in their 40s are getting their first flats cheap. Before "market subsidies" kick in, and those now below 40s in the balls.

The LKY generation should stop complaining. They are the ones who voted in the gov and stuck by the policies. They chose this situation they believed fervantly in and voted for.

Jimmy Mun said...

There is a much simpler explanation. Simple demographics. Those born before 1965 are called Baby Boomers because their's was a generation of oversized population growth. Our birthrate had been steadily falling since 1965.

There is simply not enough young people to fill the entry level jobs to maintain the number of middle management jobs their generation requires. The trend towards trimming the fat in middle management only made matters worse. So, IMHO, the flood of foreigners does create jobs for middle aged Singaporeans to a certain extent, at the expense of young Singaporeans. Like governments everywhere, Singapore is pawning our future to keep Baby Boomers happy.

The other major problem, is the implicit government directive to encourage Singaporeans to become managers.

My engineering degree in NUS for example, was a jack of all trades education aimed at training managers rather than a hands-on engineer. The real work is supposed to be done by diploma holders or outsourced to foreigners. (Just take a look at all the IDA,EDB,PSA... I havent seen a degree holder working there without a manager in their title)

Aligning our specialisations to our interests is seen as secondary to meeting market demand, since our technical skills are just a stepping stone to non-technical management roles.

Many in my generation picked a course of study based on market demand, and have no interest in the subject matter, and are eager to ditch technical work ASAP.

Guess what? Thanks to technology, we dont need so many "general" managers now. Managers today are expected to be highly hands-on and be able to lead by example.

I have no solution on a national scale. My own observation is that we should all pursue our passions, no matter how niche, or "unpatriotic" it seems. Dont listen to the "leaders" call to chase the flavour of the day, because it will never last your lifetime.

When you love what you do, you will be very good at it, and your skills will always be valuable, whether you are 25 or 85.

Anonymous said...

The salary gap between young and old is not unique to Singapore. However, in other countries, there is no wage pressure caused by the liberal "foreign talent" policy pursued by Singapore govt. As a result of the FT policy, local wages are constantly pressured by global/3rd world wage level. It is futile to maintain high wages as long as an unlimited supply of 3rd world workers is allowed to work here without restrictions.

Anonymous said...

One day the young will become the aged PMET. How about having foreign talent do same national services as Singaporean before they can take a job here? Singaporean seem to be disadvantaged by the loss of 2 years of their prime and follow up by yearly incamp.

Anonymous said...

Sure ageism is an issue. But you people really think the real issue is ageism?

This is just one of those divide-and-conquer tactics that the pap govt uses to distract people from themselves and their pro-foreigners policies.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:56 i see the same way as you do. Ageism is an issue but it is a 2nd level issue. The 1st level issue is that the PAP govt has abandoned its duty to protect jobs for the people.

With so many FTs, then the issue of ageism appears because employers have more choices. Then the issue of conflict between the younger and older S'poreans fighting for good jobs also appears as several comments here clearly reveal.

But PAP is not worried because if S'poreans cannot find jobs they will be forced out of this country. With less citizens to look after, hey PAP gonna have a better time.

And if young and old must conflict, ah as Anon 9.56 pointed out that is also good for PAP. Divide and conquer.

Some still don't get it.

LuckySingaporean said...


Just a small point. My article was about how hard it is for older PMETs to FIND a job not about how hard it is for them to KEEP a job.

What you said is possible. Companies during the good times, promote and increase the pay of their staff ...bad times come, the pay of these people look ridiculous - the company rather release these people than ruin morale by slashing pay. The PAP actually has good ideas (not everything from PAP is bad..hmmm did I just say that?!) on this which is flexi-pay. Make the flexi component significant so that it can swing with economy and prevent such retrenchments from occuring. For myself the flexi-component is something like 40% of my basic pay so my employer can slash the cost of employing me by 40% without touching my basic salary.

Anonymous said...

The ONLY factor that matters in any market is

Supply and Demand

It applies equally well in the employment market.

And therein IS the problem!

Anonymous said...

This morning when I was on the way to work, I saw an uncle who tripped and fell near the MRT escalator. He was holding a bag full of empty cans. It saddended me. I was wondering will I become the can collector when I reach his age? I remember seeing a TV programme ...can't recall what's the programme but they interviewed a bank professional who was in his fifties. He used to be a VP in a bank but after being retrenched, he could not get a job and he cited ageism as the main hindrance.

Despite the fact that I hold a postgrad qualification but I really don't know what is there for me 20 years down the road.

I Love Cats said...

I have a question for those who are in a capacity to hire: given a choice of between a young fresh grad with no experience and a retrenched and retrained PMET in the 40s, who will you choose? I was once in the position and I chose the younger grad. So I think we ourselves contributed to the problem of age discrimination. I got retrenched recently and was asked this question during an interview: "do you think you will have problems working with younger employees?". Call it retribution.