SINGAPORE - How seriously will a proposed law on fair hiring and employment practices tackle discrimination at the workplace?
Can there be clear guidelines on what job postings can say about language requirements?
These were among the questions participants at a dialogue for Malay/Muslim community and grassroots leaders had on Wednesday (Sept 8).
The session was one of several held following Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally (NDR) speech on Aug 29.
In his speech, PM Lee announced that existing guidelines by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) will soon become law to give them more teeth and signal that discrimination at workplaces - whether on the basis of nationality, age, race, religion or disability - will not be tolerated.
About 200 participants attended the event, which was organised by The People’s Association Malay Activity Executive Committees Council.
The panellists included Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Maliki Osman, and Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Faishal Ibrahim.
Issues facing Singapore's ageing population were also brought up during the session.
One participant described his experience facing age-related discrimination while searching for a job. He said that although he had a wealth of experience, he was offered lower wages than his younger counterparts.
Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Saktiandi Supaat provided more information to participants regarding how Tafep will address these employment issues.
Questions about the proposed Maintenance of Racial Harmony Act were also raised at the session.
PM Lee had announced that the Act would be introduced to encourage moderation and tolerance between different racial groups.
Participants asked whether the Act would cover bullying in schools.
Similar concerns had also been raised at a dialogue with Malay youth, held by the same organiser on Aug 31, during which some participants spoke about their experiences with casual racism among students. Racial incidents that have happened over the past few months were also brought up in both dialogues.
Discussing the topic of young Malay families living in rental flats, as mentioned by PM Lee, participants asked what could be done to help them.
Speaking to the media after Wednesday’s event, Dr Maliki referred to plans to reach out to these families in rental flats through the DIAN@M3 project, pointing out that he had mentioned this earlier.
The project will support households in rented flats with the aim of guiding them towards owning their own homes.
Dr Maliki, who is also Second Minister for Education and Foreign Affairs, said: “What’s heartening for all of us engaging the participants today is the realisation of the awareness that they have with regards to the issues that we are facing together as a community.
“Also, their willingness to work together with organisations, like M3 and other Malay Muslim organisations, and the government to reach out to community members who require support, and for us to be able to uplift the community members together as we move forward and bring the community to greater heights.”
A participant of the dialogue, Mr Sudirman Othman from Henderson-Dawson Malay Activity Executive Committee, said: “The community has a lot of concerns, from our identity to our livelihoods. But it is heartening to have our leaders wanting to receive feedback and questions from us.”