Budget debate: Flexible work arrangements key to help working parents manage responsibilities

The Government will introduce new tools and guides to support the adoption of flexible work arrangements and initiatives and boost recognition of employers who adopt such schemes.
The Government will introduce new tools and guides to support the adoption of flexible work arrangements and initiatives and boost recognition of employers who adopt such schemes.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Government will support flexible work arrangements as part of efforts to help working parents manage jobs and family commitments, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said on Friday (Feb 28).

These types of employment options were a key concern of a Citizens' Panel on Work-Life Harmony that was set up last year, Mrs Teo said, in response to several MPs who asked about feedback the panel received and how it would be following up on its recommendations.

"Core to singles not getting married and married couples not having children is the intricate balance between work and family," noted MP Desmond Choo (Tampines).

Mrs Teo, who assists Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean on population matters, said the Government will introduce new tools and guides to support the adoption of flexible work arrangements and initiatives and boost recognition of employers who adopt such schemes.

She said that unpaid infant care leave for up to four weeks in the first year after a child's birth will be made a permanent human resource leave provision this year within the Public Service.

This follows a three-year pilot in the public sector that started in 2017.

"This benefit has been well-received by parents who need it. Their supervisors and colleagues have also been supportive, and feel that it has not affected their teams' productivity," said Mrs Teo.

She noted that there have been calls, including from MP Louis Ng (Nee Soon), to extend leave schemes for parents. She said that while young parents do not mind having more paid leave, they had other areas of concern in housing, pre-school and healthcare.

Mrs Teo noted a range of measures that were announced last year to address these concerns, from higher pre-school subsidies to shorter waits for build-to-order flats, making healthcare for children and fertility treatments more affordable.

 
 
 
 

She also responded to a question from Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang) about Singapore's population numbers by noting that the country has taken in a "carefully controlled number of new citizens" each year to keep the population stable over the long term.

Over the past five years, an average of about 31,700 permanent residencies have been granted each year along with 22,100 new citizenships, including about 1,600 children born overseas to Singaporean parents.

"Supporting marriage and parenthood is the Government's top priority for the population, our policies and enhancements over the years attest to that," said Mrs Teo.

"(But) beyond policy, a whole-of-society approach is needed to build a family-friendly Singapore ... often it is societal values, workplace and cultural norms that determine whether raising a family is achievable, enjoyable and celebrated."