Move to help caregivers join workforce

NTUC deputy secretary-general Heng Chee How with Ms Koh Leh Choo, who is now a part-time homecare nurse with NTUC Health. Ms Koh had to resign from her full-time job to care for her father in 2017.
NTUC deputy secretary-general Heng Chee How with Ms Koh Leh Choo, who is now a part-time homecare nurse with NTUC Health. Ms Koh had to resign from her full-time job to care for her father in 2017.ST PHOTO: JEV AKSHAY JEEVAN

Tripartite effort to study ways to boost eldercare community services to help middle-aged women get jobs

The labour movement will look at ways to increase the employment rates of middle-aged women, many of whom indicated in a survey last year that they do not look for work because of caregiving duties.

In order to do that, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said it will consider the types of eldercare services in the community that need to be provided and how they can be funded.

It said a reform of employment models to include flexible work options is also critical.

"There must be enough quality yet affordable eldercare services in the community for caregivers to entrust their family care recipients to, so that they would not need to quit their work entirely in the first instance, or are able to take on part-time work if they cannot take on full-time jobs," NTUC said in a statement yesterday.

The labour movement said it will collaborate with the Singapore National Employers Federation and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to study, recommend and subsequently implement ways to get more middle-aged women to join the workforce.

"It is crucial for all Singaporeans, including caregivers, to have the chance and choice to earn a steady source of income to meet current expenses and more importantly, to strengthen their retirement adequacy," NTUC said.

MORE FLEXIBILITY

I am not promoting a switch from full-time to part-time work for the sake of it. I am promoting it so that those who have no work can at least work part time.

NTUC DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL HENG CHEE HOW

A 2018 MOM survey showed there were 168,300 female residents aged 40 to 59 who were not in the 2.3 million-strong labour force. Of these women outside the labour force, one in five indicated that they did not seek employment because they had to care for family members, other than children.

The announcement of the tripartite effort follows Wednesday's Parliament debate in which MPs called for caregivers to be given more support.

Among other things, they had proposed greater financial assistance in the form of grants, as well as more flexible work arrangements.

NTUC deputy secretary-general Heng Chee How said the mindset of employers must also be changed to increase their willingness to hire part-time employees and workers with flexible schedules.

 
 
 

But he said that "unions can only do so much" because jobs and how jobs are structured are determined by employers.

Besides changing mindsets, the labour movement believes strengthening know-how and devising the right incentives are important.

"I am not promoting a switch from full-time to part-time work for the sake of it. I am promoting it so that those who have no work can at least work part time," said Mr Heng.

Caregiver Koh Leh Choo, 61, was employed as a full-time nurse until February 2017, but she was forced to resign to look after her father, who is now 87 years old.

"I can't work full time as my father needs to frequently visit the hospital. I want to be there for him," she said.

After more than a year without work, Ms Koh said, she struggled to keep up with expenses.

She also found it difficult to find another job as many employers were not keen to hire part-time employees, and because of her age.

About three months ago, she secured a job with NTUC Health as a part-time homecare nurse.

"I feel more at peace and I'm comforted that I have a steady income while at the same time, I'm able to care for my father," Ms Koh said.


Correction note: This article has been edited for clarity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2019, with the headline 'Move to help caregivers join workforce'. Print Edition | Subscribe