SINGAPORE – As Singapore strives to raise its fertility rate, the minister responsible for the issue is determined to do more on two fronts: flexible working arrangements and healthy fertility.
Giving more help to families in these areas, in addition to the cash incentives already available, would create a more holistic support framework that could encourage more couples to have children, said Ms. Indranee Rajah, Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office. , in an hour. -long maintenance.
While not new, flexible working arrangements that include working from home have taken off during the pandemic and are being touted as the new normal for employers and workers in a post-Covid-19 world.
Ms Indranee, who took over the portfolio of the National Population and Talent Division from current Communications and Information Minister Josephine Teo in July last year, said such arrangements hybrids have been beneficial to Singaporean families.
Many couples who took part in a recent series of dialogues said such arrangements allowed them to spend more time with their family.
Fathers, in particular, said they were able to be more present in their children’s early years than they would have been in the past.
Ms. Indranee called for different work standards where family is at the center, especially as flexibility is increasingly important for the younger generation.
“Since it’s not just about money, so if you put more and more money into it, you might not necessarily get the result you want,” she said. declared.
Ms Indranee said there were no plans yet to encourage employers to put in place more flexible working arrangements, but noted: “The best impetus really is if companies themselves understand that it is in their best interest (to do so). “
She added: âThe question is how do you design workplaces around family without actually sacrificing productivity? will likely have the highest productivity, employee retention, and attractiveness and recruiting capacity. “
Civil society groups here have strongly called for flexible working arrangements to become the norm, with the Women’s Association for Action and Research proposing that the government pass legislation calling for such arrangements to become the norm. right for all employees.
Ms. Indranee and Minister of State for Education, Social and Family Development Sun Xueling co-led seven dialogues with members of the public on building a family-friendly nation between April and July of this year. The sessions come as Singapore’s total fertility rate fell to its lowest level – 1.1 – last year, amid the pandemic.
On fertility health, Ms Indranee said a number of women in the conversations wanted to have children but had yet to find partners and feared that they would have a harder time conceiving as they get older.
She noted that some had suggested allowing social freezing of eggs and that the Department of Social and Family Development was exploring this possibility.
For those who are married but may be postponing their children’s plans, Ms Indranee noted that doctors are encouraging those who wish to have children to have fertility tests done earlier, which is also an area the government is looking into.
âSome attention needs to be given to going upstream to look at fertility health earlier rather than waiting until it is much more difficult to treat,â she said.
There is a need to remove the stigma associated with fertility-related health issues, she added.
She said: “Some explained how hard it was for them to take time off, people were like, ‘But you are not sick, why do you need to take an MC’, and some were just embarrassed. to say they had to go for fertility treatment.
“If it’s hard to imagine, then we’ve got to do what we can, see how we can help with that.”