Government will start conversation series with young families, says Minister Indranee Rajah

Ms Indranee said the ultimate aim is to better support families, to encourage parenthood.
Ms Indranee said the ultimate aim is to better support families, to encourage parenthood.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - A new series of conversations aimed at young families will explore whether working from home, which became the norm during the Covid-19 pandemic, should be here to stay.

Announcing the plan for the conversations on Friday (Jan 1), Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah said the past year has been tough for young couples, with some deferring marriage plans and others putting off having kids, and the Government wants to hear from them about their post-pandemic hopes and needs.

Ms Indranee, who oversees the National Population and Talent Division, said the ultimate aim is to better support families, to encourage parenthood.

One thing she hopes the conversations will shed light on is how families feel about working from home, forced upon the world by the pandemic. She noted that some couples appreciate the flexibility it brings, while there are also those who find it stressful.

"Prior to Covid many employers, and many employees as well, felt working from home was difficult to do," she said.

"But... many companies have adapted, many people have also adapted, and what was previously thought not possible has been found to be possible. What is very clear is it can be done. Even if we get vaccination and come back to a new normal, I don't think (working from home) will go away."

She envisions that flexible working arrangements may become part of how Singapore supports young families.

She hopes to also learn more about the concerns and aspirations of young families through the conversations, so that the Government can look at what policy adjustments or initiatives are needed.

"You want families to be happy to grow, but you can only do that if they have the right support and if we know what that support is," she said at a virtual press conference held after a visit to the KK Women's and Children Hospital.

The new conversation series, which comes amid other engagement efforts such as the Emerging Stronger Conversations and the Conversations on Women Development, will focus on young families, meaning from those who are just married to those with primary school-age children.

Ms Indranee said she hopes to hear from a broad spectrum, from single-parent families to those that have to care for young children as well as elderly parents.

She also aims to cover as many families as possible, from as wide a geographical area as possible, but said details on the specifics of the conversation series will be ironed out in the months ahead.

It is expected to begin after the first quarter of the year and will likely be held virtually.