Role for PAP Women's Wing 'in keeping party close to ground'

The Bukit Batok by-election in May and Britons voting to leave the European Union last month hold key lessons for the People's Action Party (PAP), Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu said.

The PAP won the by-election but saw its vote share drop by 12 percentage points from the 2015 General Election, she noted yesterday.

"We must build up a solid store of goodwill for the party, because like in the 2015 General Election where there was a swing towards us, equally, there could be a swing away from us," Ms Fu told over 300 party activists at the annual conference of the PAP Women's Wing.

Ms Fu, the Wing's chairman, noted that Brexit also showed the danger of populist politics that, while catchy, is misleading, as well as the undesirable outcome when segments of a population feel left out of a country's development. "We cannot afford to allow any segment to feel they are not part of the country's progress," she said, adding that MPs need a good feel of the ground. And PAP's women members have a unique role to play in this area.

Ms Fu noted that women tend to be active in parent groups as well as on issues like childcare. She added: "Our nature is such that when the men at meet-the-people sessions find a case too emotional to handle, they will ask the women activists."

It is also crucial to ensure that policies support women's aspirations, she added. Yesterday, young women MPs shared ideas on this front, including more help for those who left work to care for their family to return to the workforce.

Fengshan MP Cheryl Chan mooted a SkillsFuture package to help such women update their skills and get internships with companies.

Women's Wing secretary Indranee Rajah said the suggestion is in line with the policy to drive lifelong learning, but needs further study. She said: "Getting back (to work) is always difficult. They worry about having lost some currency because the industry may have changed."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 17, 2016, with the headline 'Role for PAP Women's Wing 'in keeping party close to ground''. Print Edition | Subscribe