Helping mums get back into workforce

Senior Minister of State Amy Khor (left) with Ms Starrlyn Lau, an employee of Lunch Actually. Dr Khor said re-hiring and retaining female workers is becoming more crucial as growth in the labour force slows.
Senior Minister of State Amy Khor (left) with Ms Starrlyn Lau, an employee of Lunch Actually. Dr Khor said re-hiring and retaining female workers is becoming more crucial as growth in the labour force slows. ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN

Event for PMETs also offered positions for mothers seeking flexi-work arrangements

A career fair yesterday aimed to find white-collar jobs for more than 500 mothers who have either been out of the workforce for a while or need flexible work arrangements.

The Focus on Women Career Event offered these professionals, managers, executives or technicians (PMETs) the chance to seek openings with 36 employers, including multinational companies such as Google, Microsoft and Ernst & Young.

The fair, held at the Singapore Conference Hall, was the fifth organised by social enterprises Mums@Work and Careermums. It was the first time it catered to women seeking new employment after a break, besides flexi-work. It drew more than twice the usual number of participants for previous fairs and the highest number of employers to date.

Senior Minister of State for Health and Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor said at the event that re-hiring and retaining female workers is becoming more crucial as labour force growth slows and the job market tightens.

She highlighted the "considerable work-family conflict that women face" as a major reason many drop out of the workforce. "Poor support from the workplace also makes it a challenge to juggle both work and family commitments."

Ministry of Manpower figures show labour force participation rates among female residents rose from 54.3 per cent in 2006 to 60.4 per cent last year.

Mums@Work founder Sher-Li Torrey said women who take a break often find it harder to restart their careers. "Even if they've been away just two or three years, employers would say things like 'She doesn't know how to manage people any more'."

Among exhibitors at the fair was Standard Chartered bank. Mr Duncan D'Penha, its country head for talent acquisition, said: "We need women to come back to the workforce because the talent pool is very, very small. These women are experienced and talented, they just might not know that the opportunities are out there."

Jobseeker and mother of two Karen Ko, 40, wants to start working again as her daughters, aged four and seven, are getting older.

The former IT reports analyst has been out of the workforce for seven years. However, finding a new job has been "nearly impossible". She has been looking for more than a year now and applied for at least 15 positions, with no success.

She said she was willing to join any industry. "I have to be realistic. I will be happy to join anyone who will appreciate my skill set."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2016, with the headline 'Helping mums get back into workforce'. Print Edition | Subscribe