The easiest way companies can do good is by being inclusive in their hiring practices, and all employers, especially large ones, should do this, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said yesterday.
"Every employer can be an inclusive employer by hiring persons with disabilities," Mr Tharman said at the opening of the CSR and Social Innovators Forum. "It's not difficult; sometimes, it requires a bit of an adjustment to work processes but it is doable by most employers, and especially doable by large employers. It should be their responsibility," he told the gathering of corporate social responsibility (CSR) practitioners at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Mr Tharman gave the example of Barclays in Singapore. The bank took a deliberate approach towards inclusive hiring by setting up an internal disabilities network, to match every person with disabilities who is hired with someone else in the organisation. "It just requires a mindset of wanting to do good," he said.
It's not difficult; sometimes, it requires a bit of an adjustment to work processes but it is doable by most employers, and especially doable by large employers. It should be their responsibility.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER THARMAN SHANMUGARATNAM, on being inclusive in hiring practices
In a speech, Mr Tharman also emphasised the importance of having more ground-up initiatives to build a civic society. "You really need ground-up initiatives and networks to develop (because) it's the only way of growing intrinsic relationships," he said.
This is key because most people are motivated to do things based on intrinsic factors - what they like, what they find meaningful - and that changes only through interactions, friendships and relationships on the ground. "It's intrinsic motivations that, at the end of the day, shape behaviour. Incentives, sanctions, penalties, all the usual instruments of government policy are helpful, but they only go so far," Mr Tharman said.
During a dialogue session later, Mr Tharman was asked by a social entrepreneur how ground-up initiatives could deepen ties with the private sector, instead of collaborating in a one-off fashion.
He replied that the Singapore Business Federation should create a network to provide better matching.
Another participant questioned the usefulness of the gross domestic product in setting national priorities and allocating resources. Mr Tharman replied that the GDP is an important gauge of jobs and incomes, but "it's far from the be all and end all, and we all know that".
For example, social mobility is one indicator the Government tracks carefully.
"We've got to measure how well people who start off from a very difficult position - whether it's the income of their parents or the nature of the family - how well they are able to do early in life. We track very carefully how different groups of students do in school. There's a whole range of social measures we have to keep our eyes on."