Ms Quek Aik Huang, 69, retired last December after working for 20 years as a bank teller at UOB. Eight months later, she’s back working in the same role at the bank.

“While I enjoyed the free time I had after retirement, I felt like something was missing,” says Ms Quek. “So when UOB reached out to me to ask if I wanted to continue working part-time, I was happy to do so.”

Ms Quek now works 25 hours a week as part of a flexible work programme at the bank, compared to 42.5 hours in the past. Dubbed “Gig+U”, the programme was launched in 2021 to provide flexible work opportunities for the bank’s retired employees who want to remain in the workforce.

Data from the 2021 Labour Force Survey by the Ministry of Manpower suggests that Ms Quek is not alone in wanting to stay employed. The survey found that the employment rate of seniors aged 65 and above rose from 28.5 per cent in 2020 to 31.7 per cent in 2021.

This could be good news for employers. “The Gig+U Retiree programme creates a win-win situation,” says Ms Sara Tiew, head of Workforce Transformation and Analytics at UOB.

“Our retired employees continue to have a source of income and means to fill their retirement days. At the same time, the bank also gets to retain their extensive and valuable experience acquired over decades,” Ms Tiew, 35, adds.


Diverse avenues of hiring

A June 2022 survey by consumer research firm Milieu Insight found that the top reasons for older Singaporeans to keep working are to stay active, have a sense of purpose, maintain social connections, and save up for old age.

The study involved 172 workers aged 60 and above in Singapore.

The official retirement and re-employment ages in Singapore are 63 and 68. These will be progressively raised to 65 and 70 respectively by 2030.

Ms Quek says her return to work has been a positive experience, and that she’s keen to continue working “as long as I’m able”.

“I am learning something new every day. New responsibilities like the scanning of documents and manning of the service counters have enabled me to keep my mind active and meet new people.”

She adds that the flexible work arrangement allows her to achieve a good work-life balance. “I get to hang out with my family and my friends, but at the same time have a job that keeps my days occupied.”

Retired employees who are in UOB’s flexible work programme also get the same medical benefits and insurance coverage as full-time employees.

“We know that healthcare is a rising concern, particularly for (older seniors). Medical insurance is something that would be really useful for our retirees, and we offer this to them as a way of recognising their past service with us,” says UOB’s Ms Tiew.

Beyond retired employees, the bank also announced the expansion of its Gig+U initiative to provide more flexible employment options for women this week. The bank wants to enable women with families to continue to pursue their careers while supporting the needs of their families, says Ms Tiew.

By the numbers

  • 3 in 4
    Older workers in Singapore say they have no intention of stopping work before they turn 65, says a June 2022 Milieu Insight survey
  • 40%
    Singapore aims to increase the employment rate of differently-abled individuals to 40 per cent by 2030, up from 30 per cent between 2020 and 2021
  • Two-thirds
    Of companies surveyed by UOB in June 2019 say they will hire differently-abled people if they are provided guidance in the hiring process



Championing inclusive employment

Firms that are grappling with manpower crunch can consider another untapped talent pool: Differently-abled people.

UOB, for one, has been hiring differently-abled employees since 2013 at UOB Scan Hub, its nerve centre for checking, digitisation and archiving of customer documents.

Ms Agnes Tay, senior vice-president of UOB Scan Hub, shares that when the centre was first set up in 2012, they experienced challenges such as a high turnover rate.

“The large volume of documents was overwhelming, and we struggled to identify suitable candidates for the roles that we required. The turnover rate was extremely high, at about 50 per cent,” she says.

The management decided to analyse the type of skill sets required at UOB Scan Hub, narrowing it down to a few key traits – a sharp eye for detail, high levels of concentration, and a methodical approach.

“We looked at alternative sources of workers with these qualities and realised that persons with autism would be the perfect candidates for these jobs. We then started working with the Autism Resource Centre (ARC) to tap into this talent pool,” Ms Tay says.

The ARC is a Singapore-based non-profit organisation that supports people with autism.

Today, about 35 per cent of the staff at UOB Scan Hub are differently abled, comprising 25 employees with autism and two deaf employees. “Our productivity has increased to over 100 per cent, and our turnover rate has been reduced to just five per cent,” Ms Tay adds.

“The key to inclusive hiring is to make it sustainable, and it’s important for organisations to identify their business case for doing so,” says Ms Gan Ai Im, managing director and head of Marketing, Group Wholesale Banking at UOB.

Following the success of UOB Scan Hub, the bank decided to explore promoting the hiring of differently-abled employees to other organisations in Singapore.

In July 2019, the bank surveyed 220 key decision-makers at Singapore companies, and found that two-thirds would hire differently-abled individuals if they were provided sufficient guidance on the hiring process.

The bank then launched The Unlimited, an initiative aimed at encouraging companies, starting with the bank’s corporate clients, to champion inclusive hiring. Collaborating with government-linked agency SG Enable, ARC, Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds) and Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD), UOB will assist companies from enquiry through to employment.

Figures from the Enabling Masterplan 2030, the latest road map by the Government in August, show that the employment rate of differently-abled people aged 15 to 64 was about 30 per cent between 2020 and 2021.

The Government aims to increase this to 40 per cent by 2030. This would mean placing another 10,000 persons into jobs.

Ms Gan says: “UOB has been actively engaging our business clients and partners to share best practices when it comes to inclusive hiring.

“We believe that this message is important because of the multiplier effect that comes from companies encouraging other companies to hire inclusively.”

The initiative, she adds, not only helps businesses to alleviate manpower issues, but also empowers differently-abled individuals to be able to generate a source of income for themselves. “Having a job brings dignity and purpose to people,” Ms Gan says.

The Future of Finance series explores how digital solutions and insights can empower individuals and businesses in a rapidly changing world, to create a more sustainable future.

This article was originally published on The Straits Times and was written by Kareyst Lin, Content STudio.


Source: The Straits Times © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction