More jobs for elderly will ease labour shortage: employment agency
NEARLY HALF the number of elderly Thais, or 4.7 million people, continue to work beyond the retirement age because they are short of cash, according to the 2016 statistics.
Even more alarming is the figure showing only a small number – 9.9 per cent – of the working elderly are in jobs offering any kind of legal protections. The rest are employed at farms or as assistants in small shops.
In an exclusive interview, Employment Department deputy director-general Suchat Pornchaiwiseskul admitted that most jobs available for the elderly were of the unskilled type. However, he emphasised that his department was making efforts to help aged people.
“We have already set up employment units for the elderly across the country,” he said.
He said 5,884 people aged over 60 had applied for jobs via these units between August 2016 and August 2017.
“Of them, 946 have landed a job,” he said.
Most elderly job applicants have completed just primary education, given that during their childhood only a privileged few could pursue higher studies and get a university degree.
At present, available positions for the elderly are related to manufacturing lines, clerical jobs, administrative staff, fisheries and sales.
The Employment Department’s 2016 survey of more than 8,000 elderly nationwide found that the old respondents looked for jobs close to their home.
“When we surveyed 4,242 employers in the same year, we found that about 797 hired old staff for jobs that did not require high education. The elderly were hired to help with packaging and arranging products on shelves, etc,” Suchat disclosed.
He said in the next fiscal year, his department would conduct a more in-depth survey on the employment situation of the elderly.
“Today, we must admit that the recruitment rate of the elderly is still very low. We have to encourage employers to adjust their style and give more opportunities to the elderly,” he said. He added that to set a good example, employment units under his department had already hired many elderly, including some for counselling positions.
“When the elderly people of the country have more job opportunities, the labour shortage will ease,” he said.
The National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) has estimated that in about 20 years, 30 per cent of the population will be made up of elderly people.
PM’s Office Minister Suvit Maesincee lately emphasised that the NESDB should conduct a survey to find out how many elderly people were still physically fit and wanted to work so that relevant agencies could then find them a proper job.
“We will find them proper work that need not be permanent or highly paid, but jobs that should be appropriate for the knowledge, capability and physical fitness of the elderly,” Suvit said.
Suchat also supported the idea of allowing the elderly to work from home, where the job descriptions permitted.
His department has launched a website, www.doe.go.th/elderly through which the elderly can apply for jobs that matched their qualifications and requirements.
“We have prepared various categories – permanent jobs, part-time jobs, work-from-home jobs and more,” he said.
Since March, the government has been offering tax incentives to firms employing old people. Under current laws, employers’ payments to elderly employees are fully tax deductible provided the number of elderly staff does not exceed 10 per cent of total workforce.
Aware of Thailand’s need to hire more of the elderly population, two Thammasat University economics lecturers, Kaewkwan Tangtipongkul and Supachai Srisuchart, undertook a research project to address the issue of elderly employment.
The issue is serious given that the number of old people in Thailand will be growing fast over the next few decades.
The research project revealed that Singapore had already developed a system catering to its elderly workforce.
Singapore’s labour laws create channels for negotiations between employers and employees who are approaching retirement age. They also include guidelines that recommend employers start informing their employees at least three months in advance about new employment contracts.
These contracts must be valid for at least one year and give employees the option to renew them every year until the age of 65. They might also include a new pay rate and job description.
If an employee’s qualifications do not match the requirements of the new job, employers must inform them beforehand so they have time to plan ahead.
If elderly staff feel they are being unfairly treated, they can lodge a complaint with the Labour Ministry.
Labour unions in Singapore are also strong and well equipped to help employees in their negotiations.
In Thailand, although some firms have now hired elderly staff, the research conducted by the two lecturers showed the employment of older workers depended significantly on corporate culture, loyalty to organisations, and the kindness and positive attitudes of a certain executive.
Where the attitude of an individual executive was paramount, there was a risk that employment of elderly staff might discontinue when management transitions occur, the lecturers found.
The research project, so far, has identified interesting case studies on employment of the elderly.
At a factory which makes flour and noodles in Cho Heng, Nakhon Pathom, about 50 of 1,800 workers are elderly. These elderly workers have continued to work after reaching retirement age because their bosses opted to retain them at the same rate and with the same rights to salary increases as the younger staff.
Due to the factory executive’s generosity, workers who want to retire are also entitled to a monthly salary of Bt3,000 a month for the rest of their lives. Toshiba Thailand, the research project has found, also offers job opportunities to the elderly but mostly for positions where there is a labour shortage.
Pranda Jewelry, according to the research project, has offered new employment contracts to staff reaching retirement age. The contract can be renewed if the firm trusts that the relevant staff can still handle the work that requires skill and expertise. They may also work from home, because the firm has an efficient work-verification system.