Govt does not rule out anti-discrimination labour laws: Tan Chuan-Jin
Singapore's Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said the government is not ruling out having anti-discrimination labour laws.
At a conference on fair employment practices on Monday, he said legislation is a possible way to address prejudices.
Mr Tan acknowledged calls for Singapore to outlaw labour discrimination, but noted that legislation itself is not the "silver bullet".
For one, firms may find ways to circumvent new rules. Existing methods then, like moral suasion and tripartite cooperation among the state, employers and employees may be more effective.
Mr Tan said the government may be able to legislate practices but not mindset changes.
He said laws may mask symptoms of discrimination, but does not guarantee that the underlying problem is dealt with.
Mr Tan said: "People, by nature, I think we are all tribal in many ways. And I think, even at the management, at the leadership, in a workspace, it is something that we constantly got to work at. And we need to spend time thinking about it, discussing, in order to make that workplace work better."
Many companies feel employers should take the lead in anti-discrimination, rather than wait for the state's hand to move, if ever.
Richardo Chua, managing director at Adrenalin Events and Education, said: "Any legislation needs to be very clear in its scope. Perhaps if there are very specific problems, like ageism, or gender discrimination, to target that very specifically, rather than a broad-stroke, broad-based approach."
Research commissioned by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices found that 98 per cent of employers surveyed highly value the knowledge and skills of their mature workers. 71 per cent of those polled also disagreed that these older workers cost their organisations more money.
The survey further found that 83 per cent of employers had no preference for either mature or younger employees when hiring.
Heng Chee How, co-chairperson of Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices, said: "That piece of research shows that (more) employers in Singapore are aware of the value of the mature workers and the need to include them into considerations, both in human resource and operations, and to make good and fair use of this asset."
Discriminatory job advertisements have also fallen from 19.7 per cent in 2006 to less than one per cent in 2012.
In the same year, over 2,000 companies have signed the Employers' Pledge of Fair Employment Practices. This is compared to 600 signatories in 2007.