SINGAPORE - Singapore needs to find ways to ensure that parents can have a close bond with their family without feeling guilty about work, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah on Saturday (April 24).
Speaking at the first Emerging Stronger Conversations - Building a Singapore that is Made For Families, she noted how participants in the discussion said that they appreciated the time they had to spend with their family during the Covid-19 pandemic. This speaks to the importance of this familial bond, she said.
Saturday's virtual session was the first in a series of seven discussions on marriage and parenthood.
Around 50 parents with young children aged up to six years old shared their experiences as parents, how these changed due to Covid-19, and the improvements they would like to see. Topics discussed included work-life balance, accepting different metrics of success and childcare costs.
A participant noted that flexible work arrangements are not just about being able to work from home, but also having the option to work from the office if they wanted.
Not all employers embraced work-from-home arrangements, which could be a stumbling block, the participant added.
On the same note, Minister of State for Education and Social and Family Development Sun Xueling pointed out that flexible work arrangements is not just about where one operates from, but also flexible work hours and possible workloads. The Government is actively monitoring and working with employers on ways to explore flexible workplace arrangements, she said.
Another point raised was on creating more pathways for success for children, beyond the traditional metrics of excellence in academic subjects such as mathematics and science. Knowing that their children would not be left behind if they pursue less conventional career paths, such as in music or the arts, would also be reassuring, one parent said.
Parents also spoke about wanting their children to have the freedom to enjoy their childhood, and for them to not be stressed out by the academic pressures when they enter primary school.
Ms Indranee, who oversees the national population and talent division at the Prime Minister's Office, said that accepting multiple pathways to success is something which takes time.
Parents need to believe in it as well, "because if they don't, then it will always still be a perennial issue, and we'll have to look (at) how to deal with that", she said.
Her sentiments were shared by Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development, as well as Culture, Community and Youth Eric Chua, who spoke about his own worries about whether his 10-month-old son was hitting all his developmental milestones.
While it is only understandable that all parents want their children to succeed, Singaporeans should also embrace the fact that not having a degree and exploring less conventional career options could also lead to success here and elsewhere in the world, he said.
Some participants also called for more childcare leave than the current six annual days until the year one's Singaporean child turns seven to account for young children falling sick often.
Allowing parents to use their own hospitalisation leave for when their children have to be hospitalised could be an option, one parent suggested.
The conversation series, which is part of the Singapore Together Emerging Stronger Conversations, aims to engage around 400 individuals from different backgrounds who are at different stages of their marriage and parenthood journeys across the sessions.
The sessions are open to all Singaporeans and their partners, and parents of a Singaporean child, and will also include families where one spouse is non-Singaporean.
Feedback from the series will be taken into consideration for future reviews of policies supporting marriage and parenthood in Singapore.
Members of the public who wish to take part in the conversations can find out more at the website.