Applications open for Citizens' Panel on work-life harmony

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo yesterday trying out a capsule bed for staff of Grand Park City Hall hotel as Ms Lim Jiahui, the hotel's marketing and communications manager, looked on. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo yesterday trying out a capsule bed for staff of Grand Park City Hall hotel as Ms Lim Jiahui, the hotel's marketing and communications manager, looked on. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

About 50 people will be selected to come up with recommendations for Govt to review

Singaporeans keen to look at practical challenges of managing work and family commitments, and suggest solutions to the Government can apply now to join a new Citizens' Panel.

About 50 people from different walks of life will be selected, including employers and employees from various occupations and sectors, said the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) in a media release yesterday.

The Citizens' Panel on Work-Life Harmony will meet over four full-day Saturday sessions between Sept 28 and Nov 9 to formulate a set of recommendations, which will be presented in November. The Government will review those and respond early next year.

Giving more details on the panel, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo - who is leading the initiative - said yesterday that it is being convened now because Singapore has reached a point in its development journey where quality of life has become very important, not just bread-and-butter issues.

At the same time, people also understand that work-life harmony is not something the Government alone can dictate, and they seem keen to participate, she said.

"Given how much time we spend at work, having the right culture in the workplace will make a lot of difference. But this is also one area which government policies alone cannot change or shift and, at the end of the day, what matters is that you have a set of workplace norms that everyone supports and agrees on," she told reporters during a visit to Grand Park City Hall hotel, where flexible work arrangements for staff are practised.

Now, for instance, not all new fathers feel they should take advantage of paternity leave as their employers are not supportive.

 

Mrs Teo, who oversees population matters, said that for the panel to be effective, it must involve people who represent a diversity of views and have a balance of different voices. Members should also have a forward-looking orientation, and have a good mix of idealism and realism, she said.

"There are... still practicalities at work, but we mustn't give up so easily because we're talking about forging a new consensus. So we invite Singaporeans to come on board so that we can make progress together."

The panel was announced by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat last month.

NPTD said the two main aims are to identify underlying factors and gain deeper insights on issues that affect Singaporeans' work-life harmony, in the context of supporting families; and to identify trade-offs and develop solutions, including those that can be taken directly by business owners, supervisors and workers, to create conditions for work-life harmony here.

All Singaporeans aged 21 and above can apply to be on the panel.

The people selected will include freelancers, full-time and part-time workers, people with different marital status, parents and those with other caregiving responsibilities.

People interested to join can apply at www.ideas.gov.sg/public/CitizensPanel_WorkLifeHarmony or call 6516-5603 until July 31.

Selected participants will be informed by early September.

Panel members will have to commit to all four Saturday sessions.

The NPTD said the panel is based on the Citizens' Jury process invented by American political scientist Ned Crosby in 1971.

The concept has been used to discuss issues such as the economy and federal debt in the United States, the sharing of health records in Britain, and compulsory third-party insurance in Australia.

Mrs Teo also said that even amid the economic slowdown, as companies transform their businesses, they also need to look at staff well-being, for their transformation to be sustainable.

"Getting your people comfortable, building a culture that is supportive, enabling people to feel that they want to invest their time and the best of themselves into the company's development journey, to help the company to succeed, that's a very important part of it," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 16, 2019, with the headline 'Applications open for Citizens' Panel on work-life balance'. Print Edition | Subscribe