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How Singapore is sustaining family-friendly and flexible work arrangements

How Singapore is sustaining family-friendly and flexible work arrangements

"Businesses that provide flexible and hybrid work arrangements benefit from talent attraction and retention, as more employees seek better work-life balance," Minister Indranee Rajah affirmed.

Singapore is working towards more family-friendly and flexible working arrangements (FWAs), as affirmed by Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah.

In her opening speech at the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce (SICC) AGM Luncheon, Minister Indranee highlighted several steps Singapore has taken to sustain family-friendly FWAs in the post-COVID era — which she deems not only an important way of supporting families, but also of helping businesses to stay competitive.

First, as she pointed out, the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) have partnered the Government to roll out the Tripartite Standard on FWAs. By 2024, the tripartite partners will also introduce a new set of Tripartite Guidelines that require employers to consider FWA requests from employees fairly.

She further assured employers that they will get support and resources to implement FWAs. This would include regular workshops and clinics on FWA implementation offered by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP), as well as resources on their webpage, such as sectoral case studies on FWA implementation.

The Government has also doubled government-paid paternity leave from two weeks to four weeks to help parents better manage work and caregiving commitments. In the same vein, unpaid infant care leave was also upped from six days to 12 days per year for each parent in their child’s first two years.

Minister Indranee stated: "We need a whole-of-society effort to foster family-friendly societal norms, and employers have a large part to play in building a conducive environment that values and supports families. At the same time, it also benefits the employers because having flexible work arrangements in this current post-COVID context puts you in a better position to attract and retain talent.

"I would encourage all employers to provide family-friendly and flexible working arrangements, which will benefit not only the workers, but yourselves."

As a whole, FWAs give employees flexibility in terms of time and location to carry out their work duties, which benefits employees who have caregiving responsibilities. Minister Indranee emphasised that this is particularly important in Singapore, where there is an ageing population and where young families also have young children. 

"Businesses that provide flexible and hybrid work arrangements benefit from talent attraction and retention, as more employees seek better work-life balance."

Fostering partnerships between MNEs and SMEs

In her speech, Minister Indranee also encouraged partnerships between multinational enterprises (MNEs) and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). 

Currently, Singapore has the highest number of regional HQs set up in the past 10 years, compared to other countries in Asia Pacific. Over the years, anchoring investments from multinational enterprises has helped Singapore build new capabilities, develop key industries, and create good jobs for Singaporeans, she noted.

"These investments also create spinoffs for our local enterprises, who can then partner with the MNEs to build capabilities, exchange new ideas, and pursue common business development opportunities."

At the same time, local enterprises are also receiving support, being encouraged to go global and to innovate continuously — between 2019 and 2022, Singapore has doubled the amount of support extended to SMEs via capability-building grants like the Productivity Solutions Grant and the Enterprise Development Grant. The number of local enterprises supported to build new capabilities, innovate, and expand overseas has also increased by 60% over this period.

Further, she shared, Budget 2023 set aside S$1bn to boost the Singapore Global Enterprises initiative. Under this initiative, promising local enterprises will be provided with dedicated and customised support to execute their growth plans, strengthen their value proposition, and stay competitive.

Lastly, the Enterprise Innovation Scheme (EIS) was also introduced to encourage enterprises to engage in R&D, innovation, and capability development activities.

Equipping and empowering workers with the right skills and capabilities

Against this backdrop, there is also a focus on to equipping and empowering workers with the right skills and capabilities, especially through partnering with key stakeholders, such as the business community. According to Minister Indranee, these enable workers to adapt to the evolving economic landscape and capture new economic opportunities.

"A strong local workforce also provides a healthy pipeline of talent for enterprises in Singapore."

As such, Singapore launched the Jobs-Skills Integrator (JSIT) pilot in this year’s Budget, which will link up businesses, training providers, and employment agencies in each industry sector. This will aim to improve the effectiveness of the training and placement ecosystem.

The JSIT pilots will start in the precision engineering, retail, and wholesale trade sectors.

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Lead image / Shutterstock

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