Singapore’s Unions Push For Mandatory Paid Leave

1 min read
September 20, 2023
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What’s new: The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) in Singapore urged mandatory paid caregiving leave and more flexible work arrangements on Wednesday. This is to support workers balancing employment with caregiving responsibilities.

Why it matters: Singapore faces a rapidly ageing population. By 2030, one in four Singaporeans will be 65 or older, intensifying the need for caregiving. There’s a real risk of losing a workforce segment that might quit jobs to focus on caregiving.

By the numbers:

  • 85% of about 1,000 polled individuals prefer flexible work arrangements.
  • 64% support paid caregiving leave.
  • 57% favor financial support like medical insurance or subsidies.

The backdrop: The NTUC findings are from a year-long public engagement, #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations, targeting workers and job seekers with caregiving roles. Challenges cited included taking unpaid time off, difficulties concentrating, and feelings of isolation.

What they’re saying:

  • NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng: “Workers need assurance that they can manage both work and caregiving.”
  • Ms Babara Seet, caregiver: Flexibility is critical for caregivers, such as adjusting office days based on caregiving needs.
  • Mr. Ang Yuit, VP of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises: Companies need a careful balance. Too flexible, and jobs might be outsourced. Too rigid, and local workforce might decline the job.

Big picture: As Singapore’s family sizes decrease, the responsibility of caregiving concentrates on fewer individuals. By 2030, data indicates 2.4 working-age citizens will be available for each senior citizen, compared to 3.3 in 2022.

Currently, while not compulsory, there’s a growing recognition for paid caregiving leave. Employers offering such leave grew from 15% in 2012 to 30% in 2022.

Looking forward: A tripartite group began crafting guidelines for flexible work arrangements in September, expected to launch in 2024. The Ministry of Manpower acknowledges the feedback and aims to promote best practices considering caregiver support and business constraints.

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