Parliament

More help urged for caregivers, most of whom are women

Suggestions that were put forward by MPs yesterday to support women who made sacrifices to look after children, the elderly and people with disabilities include providing career counselling to help them start or return to work and tapping community r
Suggestions that were put forward by MPs yesterday to support women who made sacrifices to look after children, the elderly and people with disabilities include providing career counselling to help them start or return to work and tapping community resources to reduce their workload.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

MPs yesterday called for more support for caregivers, the majority of whom are women who have made sacrifices to look after children, the elderly and people with disabilities.

On the second day of the Budget debate, various suggestions were put forward to help this group, including providing career counselling for caregivers to start and return to work, tapping community resources to reduce caregivers' workload, and giving them more mental health support.

Figures from the Report on Labour Force in Singapore 2019 showed that about 133,500 people in the resident population cited caregiving responsibilities as the main reason for having to leave the workforce, noted Ms Ng Ling Ling (Ang Mo Kio GRC).

Nine in 10 of them were women, and the majority of the women were aged between 40 and 59 years. Almost seven in 10 were out of the workforce for more than five years.

"Some of the most common problems that women caregivers experienced is a setback in their own health and career," said Ms Ng, who added that female caregivers also struggle with uncertainty about their future and financial adequacy in their old age.

She welcomed Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat's announcement that a new Singapore Together Alliance for Action for caregivers of those with disabilities will be formed, and called for this to be expanded to female caregivers. The alliance will co-create solutions to improve support for caregivers.

Career counselling and training support should also be given to caregivers who would like to return to work or start work, including taking on part-time or flexi-work arrangements, said Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC).

"Earned incomes contribute to household finances and retirement adequacies, and improve the quality of life for families," she said.

Ms Pereira also called for more mental health professionals to be trained to help those facing mental health issues, and to help maintain caregivers' mental health.

Caregiving services can also be made more accessible to families, said Ms Cheryl Chan (East Coast GRC). For instance, those who can provide part-time caregiving services can be connected to families living near them, which can help workers to balance family care duties while supplementing their income at the same time.

Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli said yesterday that the authorities are studying the possibility of piloting night-time childcare at a Community Link (ComLink) site for low-income families who need help with caregiving arrangements. He was responding to Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) in a written parliamentary reply.

Correction note: An earlier version of this story attributed the data on those in the resident population who cited caregiving responsibilities as the main reason for having to leave the workforce to a 2020 report. It should be a 2019 report instead.

  • 133,500

  • Number of people in the resident population who cited caregiving responsibilities as the main reason for having to leave the workforce, according to figures from the Report on Labour Force in Singapore 2020, noted Ms Ng Ling Ling (Ang Mo Kio GRC).

The ComLink initiative, started in 2019, coordinates help for families across multiple agencies.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2021, with the headline 'More help urged for caregivers, most of whom are women'. Subscribe