Work Life Of Unskilled Elderly Sociology Essay Example
Work Life Of Unskilled Elderly Sociology Essay Example

Work Life Of Unskilled Elderly Sociology Essay Example

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  • Pages: 16 (4357 words)
  • Published: August 11, 2017
  • Type: Research Paper
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The text examines the employment of elderly individuals in Singapore and provides an overview of a research project's purpose and objectives. It proceeds to briefly assess relevant literature on research methods for the proposed topic. The selected method for the research project is the descriptive phenomenological approach.

Section 4 details the cognitive nature of the research and also discusses logical thinking for selecting the method. Considerations for the execution are mentioned within the same section. The summary section concludes in section 5. Additionally, there are two appendices and a reference list at the end of this document.

The appendixes contain the literature review on aging and the guided questions for the interview.

Overview of Aged Employment

On Oct 1st, 2012, the United Nations released a study on the International Day of Older Persons, warning authorities worldwide about address


ing challenges posed by an aging population [ 1 ]. The study conducted by the UN Population Fund and HelpAge International highlighted that younger workers in many developing economies may not be able to handle the increasing burden of older populations as they age. Some alarming statistics presented in the study include:

  • Singapore: - Now: 10% of residents above 65
  • 2030: 20%
  • World: - Now: For the first time, there are more people above 60 (810 million) than children
  • By 2022: 1 billion people above 60
  • By 2050: The group above 60 will outnumber those under 15

One suggested solution proposed by Richard Blewitt, CEO of HelpAge International, was eliminating mandatory retirement age [ 2 ]. He emphasized that aging was being poorly managed and called for global action plans from all countries to ensure that the growing number of people over sixty could become active contributors and

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If these suggestions are implemented, it is expected that more elderly people will continue working in the workforce in the near future. This would contribute to thriving economies.

Elderly in Singapore

The economy of Singapore had an average annual growth rate of 8.0% from 1960 to 1999 [3]. Despite a period of -2.0% to 2.2% growth caused by the dot com crisis and SARS outbreak from 2001 to 2003, the economy consistently experienced rapid growth, reaching a record high of 14.5% in 2010. This impressive growth was supported by transitioning from labor-intensive industries to technology-intensive and value-added industries, ultimately leading to a knowledge-based economy. The government of Singapore initiated various training programs for a highly educated and skilled workforce who played a crucial role in continuously upgrading their knowledge and skills [4]. In 1980, half of the workforce consisted of unskilled laborers with less than six years of formal education.

In 2011, the percentage decreased to 12.6%, causing foreign workers and locals with less than 6 years of basic education to occupy the remaining unskilled jobs. It is important to mention that an unskilled worker, as defined in this study, refers to someone who lacks specialized training and performs simple tasks without independent judgment or prior experience. Presently, there is no official statistic on the number of elderly local workers who hold unskilled positions while still being part of the workforce.

The Ministry of Manpower released data in December 2012 showing that there are an estimated 45,000 to 60,000 unskilled elderly individuals in Singapore. This group makes up around 2.75% of the total workforce in the country. While this percentage may seem small, it actually represents about 20%

of the total number of people aged 60 and above. (It is important to note that "aged" refers to those who are 60 years old or older in this study.)

The proposed research aims to examine the work life of unskilled elderly individuals in Singapore and understand their attitudes towards aging. This figure may increase further in the coming years as more elderly individuals may need to continue working to keep the economy growing. What are the current working conditions for these older individuals? Are they satisfied with their work life? How do they adapt to aging? What is their perspective on getting older? This research proposal seeks to find answers for this specific age group.

Aim and Objectives of the Project

Gerontologists, researchers, and policy analysts believe that social institutions such as the workplace should support the aging process for older individuals [5]. If the workplace aligns with successful aging models (described in appendix B), both employers and older employees can benefit from the growing number of older workers in the workforce. This study aims to gain insight into the experiences of unskilled elderly individuals, their adaptation to work environments, and their coping strategies for aging in today's Singapore society.

The aim of this research is to evaluate the work life and attitudes towards aging among unskilled older individuals. Its goal is to identify factors that can enhance their experience as they grow older. The survey has specific objectives, including describing the significance of work in the lives of these individuals, understanding how they adapt to employment, examining their societal situation, and suggesting necessary changes. Furthermore, this research will serve as a valuable reference for those who work

with unskilled older individuals in the workplace.

To achieve this, the research will aim to answer the following questions: Are workplaces conducive to successful ageing? How do unskilled elderly individuals adapt to working life? Can unskilled elderly individuals find joy and fulfillment in their employment while also enjoying their aging process? Why do they need unskilled jobs at this stage in their lives? What are their perceptions of others' opinions about their roles in the workplace and society? How can their lives be improved with or without these unskilled jobs? The literature relevant to aging was reviewed in appendix B. The following sections will first discuss the research methodology used in social sciences and outline its prominent characteristics. The subsequent section will describe the nature of knowledge in this study and the chosen method. Justification and evidence for the chosen research method will be presented in section 4.2.

In the field of social science, the two most popular forms of research methods are quantitative and qualitative research [6]. This section will review these methodologies and their related approaches.

Quantitative Research

The traditional way of thinking is essentially the quantitative research paradigm. Researchers in quantitative research generally use methods developed over centuries in natural sciences by formulating hypotheses derived from theoretical foundations [7]. Quantitative methodologies test theory deductively based on existing knowledge. They measure the variables of interest and analyze the relationships between these variables mathematically.

The main emphasis is on generalizations and the creation of universal statements or laws. In social science research, the data collected is therefore often aggregated across individuals in order to test a specific hypothesis.

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research concentrates on smaller

parts of society and on understanding social situations and the meanings that individuals associate with behavior. Its goal is to uncover the quality of the social world we inhabit and is done through the perspective of the individuals being studied.

The analysis and interpretation of collected perspectives form the basis for qualitative research. This approach is developed through inductive reasoning [8]. While social scientists have published numerous books on the constructs and methods of qualitative research in recent years, a definitive and concise definition is difficult to find. Denzin and Lincoln note that qualitative research spans across subjects, fields, and topics, encompassing a complex and interconnected array of terms, concepts, and assumptions [9]. Cresswell outlines five primary approaches to qualitative research: narrative study, phenomenology, grounded theory, descriptive anthropology, and case study [10].

According to Mohammed Ali [11], qualitative research approaches have four common features. These features include the centrality of societal world and worlds, examining a changing world, interpreting the research world constructively so that the researched contributes meaning to the research, and attempting to understand and seek significance. Additionally, there are other qualitative research approaches with different names or purposes, such as historical, action research, content analysis, and generic qualitative method [12].

Constructivism as a Paradigm in Qualitative Research

In order to further analyze the differences among various research approaches in social sciences, it is necessary to consider the four main paradigms in research: positivism, post-positivism, critical pragmatism, and constructivism.

We need to comprehend their beliefs regarding the nature of the world (ontology), the role of human cognition (epistemology), and the methods employed to address research inquiries (methodology) [13]. Among these beliefs, constructivism functions as the fundamental framework for

qualitative research. Constructivists maintain a relativist perception of ontology, affirming that the world consists of numerous individual worlds influenced by factors like history, cultural context, and personal experience. The main focus is not establishing the "truth" of the constructed world but rather ensuring its alignment with those involved.

The researcher does not enter people's minds but needs to reflect their subjective perspectives through observation and understanding their emotions objectively. Constructivism is an epistemic belief about what "knowing" is and how one "comes to know" [14]. Constructivists believe in individual interpretations of reality, meaning the knower and the known are interactive and inseparable.

The fundamental philosophy of qualitative research is rooted in the notion that the world is shaped by social constructs [15]. Rather than a singular, objective reality, there exist numerous interpretations or perspectives regarding any given occurrence. Although qualitative research encompasses diverse methodological approaches, they all possess common characteristics. These research methods aim to understand a specific phenomenon or the perspective of a particular group. Methods for gathering data can consist of interviews, observations, or examination of documents. The results of these studies involve describing and analyzing the relevant issues.

These researches can be classified as basic or general qualitative researches. Instead of presenting a precise definition of qualitative research, Merriam [15] outlines four characteristics in her book that describe the nature of qualitative research: focusing on process, understanding, and significance; utilizing the researcher as the primary tool for data collection and analysis; employing an inductive approach; and producing richly descriptive outcomes.


Phenomenology is an inductive qualitative methodology that emphasizes individuals' subjective experiences and interpretations. It is a school of thought that aims to comprehend the phenomena under

investigation through the perspectives of those directly or indirectly involved. Phenomenology delves into studying lived experience.

There are two main phenomenological doctrines [16]. Husserl's nonnatural phenomenology posits a division between the mind and body, suggesting that the meanings of the world exist externally, separate from humans. It is crucial for humans to discover these meanings, as phenomenology aims to provide a clear and accurate depiction of how things appear. On the other hand, Heidegger's hermeneutic phenomenology opposes this separation of mind and body by asserting that the meanings of the world are influenced by human interaction with it.

The central concept is that the comprehension of phenomena relies on their interpretation.

Approaches to Phenomenological Research

Phenomenological investigation, derived from phenomenological doctrine, can be seen as a method for conducting research. Different methods within phenomenology are available, such as van Manen's hermeneutic phenomenology and Giorgi's descriptive phenomenology [16].

The new wave of Manen's method aligns with Heidegger's hermeneutic phenomenology, while Giorgi's method is rooted in Husserl's nonnatural phenomenology. Both methods seek to understand human experience. Giorgi's method specifically aims to reveal essential universal meanings related to a phenomenon and produce precise descriptions through meticulous data collection and analysis procedures.

The analysis and determination must be based closely on available information and strict limitations for research workers [17]. They must disregard their own experiences, values, perception, etc. in order to understand the subjects being studied. There are four strict steps to process the data [18]: (a) reading the entire description to get an overall understanding; (b) identifying meaningful units within a perspective; (c) translating the subject's everyday expressions into the researcher's specialized language; and (d) consolidating translated meaning units into a coherent structure

of the phenomenon. Researchers using van Manen's method take on the role of an interpreter or meaning-maker. They must immerse themselves in the situation being studied and "become more fully a part of it".

According to Van Manen, phenomenology is not defined by a specific method but rather as an approach or way of conducting research. However, he does propose six methodological themes: (a) exploring the nature of lived experience, (b) investigating experience as it is being lived, (c) reflecting on essential themes, (d) mastering the art of writing and revising, (e) maintaining a strong and focused relationship with the research subject; and finally (f) balancing the research context by considering both parts and wholes. Additionally, Van Manen values the use of poetic language as "the only adequate way to express human significance". While these two approaches differ in methodology, they both emphasize data collection in order to provide concrete descriptions of the phenomenon under study. Common methods for data collection include conducting in-depth interviews or focus groups, analyzing documents such as journals or diaries, and making observations.

Data analysis usually starts when the initial set of information becomes available. This information can be compared to previous work in order to improve the following aggregation. It also helps determine if the collected information has reached the desired point of concentration. If interviews are the source of information, they should be conducted in a way that allows interviewees to freely express themselves in their own language and manner, and to highlight any points they deem important. The goal is to comprehend their perspectives and how they approach the issues, including their values, emotions, code of behavior, past life

experiences, and relevant events. As a result, the researcher can gain a comprehensive understanding of the subject at hand.

It can also help to understand the progress or sequence of the event from various angles and to gain better depth with fine details. This section will first discuss the nature of knowledge of this survey and then consider why not a different method. A few key strategies to implement the chosen method will be discussed at the end of the section.

Nature of Knowledge of this Survey

The research aims to determine the work life of the unskilled aged and their perspectives towards aging.

According to Denzin and Lincoln [20], qualitative research aims to understand phenomena in their natural settings by interpreting the meanings people attribute to these settings. A qualitative approach, involving in-depth interviews with elderly individuals, will provide insight into their perception of work life and aging. Therefore, this study adopts a qualitative research method to identify the fundamental aspects of human experiences related to a specific phenomenon, as described by a chosen group of unskilled elderly participants. This qualitative investigation will be conducted within a constructivist framework.

The study will use an embedded individual instance survey [21] with a phenomenological approach to focus on the experiences of unskilled aged workers in Singapore. By interviewing these aged individuals, the survey aims to gather detailed information about their perceptions of work life and their attitudes towards aging. The specific context for this study is the work life and attitudes towards aging of all unskilled individuals who are 60 years old or older in Singapore. Any of these aged individuals can serve as the unit

of analysis for the survey. The decision to use a phenomenological methodology and conduct in-depth interviews with the aged participants is based on their possession of the information and knowledge that I am seeking.

I am convinced that they have the ability to reveal their genuine and valuable experiences. By analyzing the data collected from the interviews, I can gradually piece together information bits to form a complete understanding of the phenomenon being studied. The main objective is to enhance knowledge about this phenomenon, specifically the lives of the unskilled elderly in Singapore, without making any broad generalizations.

The aim is to identify the core of the phenomenon without any prior hypotheses or premises. In terms of knowledge, the research findings will shed light on whether our unskilled elderly population aligns with the successful aging model. Currently, there is limited relevant information available, and it is hoped that this research can narrow the gap. Given the aging population and the need for more active elderly individuals to support the economy, it is important to understand the experiences of older workers in Singapore. Existing studies on related topics have mostly focused on situations that do not apply to unskilled elderly individuals in Singapore, who reside in a densely populated city state and have no alternative options.

Hopefully, the research can also identify the challenges of successful aging specifically in the context of unskilled elderly individuals in Singapore and can serve as a reference for policy makers.

Why Phenomenology is chosen?

This section will examine the suitability of the selected research method. Firstly, a comparison will be made with a quantitative approach and then the reason

for selecting a phenomenological method from a qualitative approach will be discussed.

Quantitative Approach?

Feelings and perspectives from the elderly are highly subjective and personal. Each person has their own interpretation of the meaning of life.

Reducing feelings and positions to a few cardinal variables studied quantitatively would not provide useful findings. There is also very little study on aged subjects done in Singapore, particularly on unskilled aged. Findings on those conducted in western countries on similar topics may not be applicable here. The appropriate variables for a quantitative research for our aged population here are not easy to justify and establish. On the other hand, qualitative approaches are effective in identifying the intangible factors, such as social norms, socioeconomic status, gender roles, and religion. A qualitative approach is suitable for the proposed research as its factors are not evident at the moment.

When the factors that contribute to the issue are identified and become more apparent, quantitative attack can be reconsidered.

Qualitative Approaches

In addition to serving as the initial investigation of this long-standing subject, qualitative attacks offer the benefit of allowing a thorough and detailed examination [7] of this social issue, and also enable the discovery of unexpected findings. By focusing on small groups before moving on to a broader study, it can reveal more about people's experiences. However, these advantages are associated with using qualitative methods.

The selection of a research methodology is closely connected to the subject and questions being asked [7]. This study focuses on the work life of elderly individuals and their perspectives on aging. The following section will explain why phenomenology is the chosen theoretical framework for this research.


Below are

three definitions of phenomenology from different sources: Patton [22], Creswell [23], and Rossman; A; Rallis [24]. Using these definitions, I will explore the core meanings of phenomenology and determine if they align with the characteristics and goals of the proposed research topic.

Later, before reaching the end of this section, I will gather together the research questions and objectives by utilizing the key terms stated in these three definitions in order to verify that it is the appropriate approach for the investigation. "…a phenomenological study…is one that focuses on descriptions of individuals' experiences and how they perceive those experiences. One can use a broader phenomenological perspective to clarify the importance of utilizing methods that capture individuals' perception of the world without necessarily conducting a specific phenomenological study that focuses on the essence of shared experiences." [22] "Researchers seek out the essentials, underlying structure (or essence), or the key underlying meaning of the experience and emphasize the intentional nature of consciousness, where experiences encompass both the external appearance and inner consciousness based on memory, imagery, and significance.

Phenomenology, a tradition in German doctrine, focuses on the essence of lived experience. Phenomenological researchers deeply explore the significance of specific aspects of experience, believing that through dialogue and contemplation, they can uncover its essential meaning. Language is seen as the primary system for constructing and conveying meaning. The purpose of phenomenological inquiry is to describe, interpret, and critically reflect on the "world as world".

Central to the research is the exploration of intentionality and lovingness in lived experience. The researcher seeks to understand the essence of lived experience using the phenomenological method. The primary goal of this method is to uncover

the phenomenon based on people's experiences, which aligns with the objectives of our proposed research.

The focus of my survey involves studying the work life of older individuals and their attitudes towards aging. To gather this information, I will rely on the personal experiences of older people. I will conduct in-depth interviews to enable them to share their lived experiences and thoughts. Both Creswell and Rossman ; Rallis include the concept of "meaning of experience" in their definitions.

According to Patton, the phenomenological method involves exploring how people experience things and what they experience. This approach focuses on describing the details of people's experiences and how they perceive them. Therefore, when conducting a phenomenological probe, it is important to include both the "what" and "how" of the phenomenon. Experience is a central concept in phenomenology and studying the construction of experiences is a key aspect of this methodology.

The proposed research aims to explore the work life of the elderly, as well as examine the significance of their work experiences, particularly in relation to aging. This aligns with the purpose of the study, which is to uncover the "what" and the "how" of their work life. The concept of "intentionality of consciousness" is based on the idea that each individual's life-world, consisting of physical environments and daily experiences, forms their perception of the world. The life-world serves as the foundation for all knowledge. Consciousness can be seen as a "window to the world," representing an individual's unique thoughts, memories, emotions, sensations, and surroundings.

To comprehend worlds, one must comprehend consciousness. The realm of consciousness reveals the phenomenon [19]. Intentionality denotes the capacity to deliberate or have a purposeful state.

It indicates that consciousness is always directed towards something other than ourselves; "it is the essential characteristic of consciousness" [26]. While there may be other interpretations regarding the significance of this phrase, within the aforementioned definitions, it highlights that an individual's experience encompasses subjective elements associated with their own life-world shaped by various conscious cognitive processes of thoughts, memories, emotions, sensations, and surroundings. This serves as a reminder that the meanings of experiences gathered from older individuals are their own perspectives and can be subjective.

In order to fully grasp the revealed experience of others, I must put aside my own experiences, perceptions, and preconceptions during the process of collecting information, also known as "epoche" or "freedom from guesses" by Husserl [25]. This process is commonly referred to as "bracketing" [19]. It is essential to accurately capture the true perspectives of the elderly without distorting their conscious intent. During the interview and transcription stages, my focus will be on practicing "bracketing." To truly understand human experiences as they are lived and encountered, Giorgi [26] emphasizes the importance of initially examining the individual's point of view.

The purpose of this proposal is to capture the understanding of conscious capabilities as perceived in objects. The method used to gather this internal perspective from the elderly is through questioning. The goal of phenomenological research is to reduce the meanings of experience to their essential structure, which is called the "kernel".

Using the procedure of "eidetic decrease" (for example, thematic analysis), it is possible to transform the "bracketed" information and uncover the core meaning. My ultimate goal is to discover the significance, structure, and essence of the lived experience of

work life for unskilled aged individuals in Singapore. There are various methods for analyzing data to uncover the "essence." Each method has its own approach and philosophical beliefs. For this study, I will be using Giorgi's descriptive phenomenological method based on personal preference.

The survey findings indicate that the unskilled aged positions can be repeated without much distortion. Based on this scrutiny, my proposed subject and research inquiries clearly fall under the category of phenomenology. The information obtained is from in-depth interviews conducted with unskilled elderly individuals, providing direct insights into their personal life experiences.

I acknowledge that when people share their experiences with me, it is a deliberate and informed action. The content of these experiences may include subjective elements. During the interviews, I need to set aside my own beliefs, perceptions, and experiences. This will allow the information I gather to reflect the subjective perspectives of the elderly individuals based on their own understanding of the world. The interviews will explore their work life and the related meanings attached to it, as well as their attitudes towards aging. The Giorgi's descriptive phenomenological method will be utilized for analyzing the gathered data.

The constructed cognition of unskilled aged in Singapore is the result of analyzing information from their lived experiences. This cognition includes the meaning, construction, and core aspects of their lived experience. Schwandt [20] specifically stated that phenomenological inquiry is suitable for exploring the meanings and perspectives of research participants. The analysis aims to comprehend how the everyday, shared reality is constructed.

My research design is to gather the lived experiences from the elderly population and analyze their everyday work life and subjective perspectives on aging. This

strongly reaffirms my decision to use the phenomenological method for the survey.

Implementation Considerations

To ensure that the method described above can achieve the desired goals, there are a few aspects that need attention in the planning and execution phases.


Since the proposed qualitative method aims to analyze the issues in depth and detail, interviews will be conducted to gather subjective perspectives and thoughts from the research participants. Currently, there is limited knowledge about unskilled elderly individuals in Singapore, and this qualitative approach allows for the accumulation of information from their experiences. Therefore, the survey design should facilitate the expression of the elderly participants' internal perspectives.

The main focus of the investigation is to explore the interviewees' ideas, attitudes, involvements, values, experiences, and significances. The preferred method of conducting the interviews is in their natural environments, which will also help in observing and understanding their lifestyle. These natural environments could be their homes, workplaces, or any place that holds significance to them. This approach will provide a better understanding of the interviewees' motivations for pursuing employment and how they adjust to their work life.

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