Parliament: Call for employers, policies to be more inclusive

People such as those with physical or mental disabilities, seniors, low-income families and displaced workers should not be left behind as Singapore progresses, said several MPs in Parliament yesterday. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
People such as those with physical or mental disabilities, seniors, low-income families and displaced workers should not be left behind as Singapore progresses, said several MPs in Parliament yesterday. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Singapore's economic transformation amid the coronavirus pandemic and economic downturn must not come at the expense of its people, especially the more vulnerable in the community, said several MPs in Parliament yesterday.

Speaking during the debate on the President's Address, the MPs said people - such as those with physical or mental disabilities, seniors, low-income families and displaced workers - should not be left behind as the Republic progresses.

Mr Sharael Taha (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) said businesses must do their part to provide fair opportunities for workers.

Citing the case of a resident who lost a foot to diabetes and is now immobile, Mr Sharael said new norms of work amid the current crisis mean that this resident, being alert and mentally capable, is as productive as an able-bodied person.

Yet, the resident has found it difficult to land a job, Mr Sharael said, calling for employers to be more inclusive when it comes to jobs for seniors, the less abled and caregivers.

The Government, businesses and citizens must also work together and expand opportunities for Singapore's senior workforce, he added.

Similarly, Mr Alvin Tan, Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Culture, Community and Youth, focused on the need to do more and foster an inclusive society for those with mental and physical disabilities.

In his speech, Mr Tan cited how a resident refused to call the Ministry of Social and Family Development helpline because she felt it was shameful to do so.

He said there is a need for inclusive policies and norms to ensure that people feel safe and unashamed to use mental health resources.

Ms Cheryl Chan (East Coast GRC) said groups such as vulnerable seniors, families with little financial support and people with special needs are particularly affected in being able to cope with the pressures and stress brought about by challenges from the external environment.

She asked: "While state resources have always largely been channelled to assist the vulnerable and the low-income groups, have we considered what other safety nets they require or what may make them feel more comforted in knowing they are not left behind as Singapore progresses?"

 
 
 

Singaporeans also need more than financial aid as they rebuild their lives post-Covid-19, Ms Chan said, adding that emotional support and ground-up initiatives are the "non-official but necessary additional safety nets that will truly make a difference to people's lives".

Progress Singapore Party Non-Constituency MP Hazel Poa, in her speech, called for an enhancement to the Covid-19 Support Grant, such that it can offer financial assistance for a longer period to those affected by the pandemic.

"Otherwise, there will be much anxiety and pain in many families, which will, in turn, slow down our recovery," she said.

The grant provides up to $800 a month for three months to Singaporeans who are unemployed or have suffered significant income loss due to the pandemic.

Ms Poa also suggested allowing Central Provident Fund members who have lost their jobs to borrow from their own CPF accounts, to cope with the financial stress amid the Covid-19 crisis. These loans can be repaid after they find new employment, she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2020, with the headline 'Call for employers, policies to be more inclusive'. Subscribe