In an increasingly tight labour market, companies in Singapore will continue to struggle to hire and retain talent.
But there is an untapped pool of talent many employers choose to ignore – ex-offenders.
According to Yellow Ribbon Singapore, more than 9,000 ex-offenders complete their sentences and are released from various prisons and drug rehabilitation centres every year.
NTUC Assistant Secretary-General Patrick Tay said that in a country with no natural resources like Singapore, every one counts and every worker matters, including ex-offenders.
“We should not leave any stones unturned and leave any worker behind,” he said.
Mr Tay said this at a focus group session organised by NTUC and Yellow Ribbon Singapore on 13 January 2023.
About 140 employers, associations and ex-offenders attended the discussion to voice their concerns, struggles and challenges of hiring ex-offenders.
Some topics discussed include workplace inclusion, training initiatives and stakeholder support.
Mr Tay said society is more inclusive and accepting today than in the past. But he acknowledged that workplace discrimination in various forms still exists.
To close the gap on existing workplace discrimination, Mr Tay hopes that the upcoming workplace anti-discrimination legislation will level the playing field for all workers.
Mr Tay is also on the tripartite workgroup deliberating on the legislation.
One of the participants and ex-offender Yeo Yun Luo said it is all about how ex-offenders position themselves.
He said: “Look what you are good at. Then, if you need education [and skills], you can definitely go for courses to upgrade yourself.”
But beyond courses, Mr Yeo also said that there needs to be more acceptance by companies and society for ex-offenders.
Mr Yeo currently works as a project manager at the commercial real estate company Cushman & Wakefield.
Cushman & Wakefield Managing Director Lam Shiu Tong said employers might not be hiring ex-offenders simply out of concern.
“If you change your perspective, you can change the world,” he said.
He added that with Singapore’s labour crunch, ex-offenders are a source of untapped talent.
“Comparing to other talents out there … [Ex-offenders] have additional inert attributes that the rest might not have, which is the drive.
“They will have something to prove, that they are now given a chance to make it right.”
The focus group discussion was part of the #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations, a larger-scale series of engagements by the Labour Movement to engage all workers across various life stages.
To participate in the #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations, visit conversations.ntuc.sg.