With more employees returning to offices and work sites, the minister in charge of boosting Singapore's birth rate has asked employers to look seriously at providing more flexible work arrangements to allow workers time and opportunity to attend to their elderly parents or young children.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah, who oversees the National Population and Talent Division, suggested that even as Covid-19 restrictions ease further, companies here should consider offering staff a hybrid work arrangement that will permit them to spend some time working in the office and some time working from home.
Speaking yesterday at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs' (SIIA) Asean and Asia Focus 2021: Partnerships in Economic Recovery and Sustainable Infrastructure forum, she said: "Total fertility rate is at a historic low... so we need more babies. But when you talk to families, a lot of what comes back is work stress, and time off needed for childcare, as well as for elderly parents.
"So whilst employers are very, very happy to have the employees back in the office, I think that going forward, working will be more of a hybrid model, where a good part of the time may be spent in the office. But employees would really, really appreciate flexibility to attend to elderly parents and to young children."
Ms Indranee was responding to how companies can partner the Government to achieve workforce transformation, as Singapore makes headway in vaccinating its residents and more Covid-19 restrictions are eased.
The Government announced last week that working from home will no longer be the default and up to three-quarters of a firm's staff will be able to return to the workplace at any one time.
SIIA chairman Simon Tay, who moderated the dialogue with Ms Indranee, asked how Singapore would look like if remote working becomes more of a norm in the future.
Ms Indranee, who is also Second Minister for National Development and Finance, said there would be less concentration in the city areas, and more decentralisation.
The heartland areas would have more areas for people to work from, childcare options, as well as green spaces for people to get some fresh air, she added, painting a picture of what Singapore could look like in the future.
During the forum, which explored the themes of partnership between Asean and Asian countries and sustainable infrastructure development, Ms Indranee also spoke about Singapore's investments into infrastructure and healthcare in preparation for an ageing population.
Citing the example of the Community Care Apartments at Harmony Village @ Bukit Batok, a new housing model for seniors that was launched this year and which integrates senior-friendly design features with care services, Ms Indranee said the Government is studying plans for a second pilot.
She added that across Asia, countries are all facing fast-ageing populations and can learn from one another in terms of innovations in policy, healthcare and technology.
Panellists at the forum, which was held at the Fullerton Hotel and online via video conferencing, spoke about how the pandemic, as well as the US-China trade war, has accelerated supply chain diversification, opening up opportunities for Asean to become a base of operations.
They also discussed the importance of continuing with investments into infrastructure development, particularly sustainable infrastructure, for long-term resilience.