SINGAPORE — Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong called on employers to create family-friendly workplaces and offer additional paternity leave.
During the People’s Action Party (PAP) Women’s Wing International Women’s Day (IWD) Commemoration event on Saturday (4 March), he pointed out that when paternity leave was introduced in 2013, take-up rates were “very low”. A decade later, the take-up rate is slightly over 50 per cent, which he noted is “not bad”.
However, DPM Wong believes Singapore can still do better as a society. “Mindsets are progressively changing, especially amongst the younger men. I think far too often, women are still much more likely to be pigeonholed into the role of being a caregiver,” he said.
He hopes that the latest move of doubling paid paternity leavefrom next year onward will allow and encourage fathers to become more involved with raising their children at an early age.
Employers must also play a part in supporting this, he said.
“The increase in paternity leave will start out on a voluntary basis, but we intend to make it mandatory at some point in time; preferably sooner rather than later. So I would urge all employers to move as soon as possible; don’t wait until the government makes it mandatory before you move. Start offering additional paternity leave now.”
DPM Wong, who is also Finance Minister, pointed out that, when employees can see that their bosses are enlightened and are offering good benefits, these employers are more likely to retain and attract their staff.
Supporting women’s development in Singapore
During his speech, DPM Wong also stressed that Singapore still has much work to do to advance and support women’s development, and ensure women are an integral part in creating a more inclusive Singapore.
In June last year, he had launched the Forward Singapore exercise to gather Singaporeans’ views on the roadmap for the nation’s next stage.
“Under Forward Singapore, we are continuing to engage wide spectrum of Singaporeans – men and women – from diverse backgrounds, and I am glad that the PAP Women’s Wing has been contributing to these conversations,” he said at the IWD event.
Together with Sim Ann, chairwoman of the PAP Women’s Wing (WW) and Sun Xueling, organising chairperson for Saturday’s event, DPM Wong launched the “Forward SG – Women in Action” digital collection.
There will be 24 projects across multiple WW branches led by women Members of Parliament in this showcase, demonstrating how MPs and activists work with communities to support various causes and segments of society.
Here are some of the year-long series of outreach initiatives:
The “Every Step Matters Programme” in MacPherson aims to help stay-at-home mothers, or women who have retired, transit back to the workforce with the support of life skills and career coaches.
“Take Action for Sustainability”, a campaign started at the Serangoon PAP Branch, involves members working with volunteers from the community, where they will be reaching out to residents with suggestions on simple ways to incorporate sustainable living into everyday tasks.
NTUC’s Women Supporting Women Mentorship Programme involves women leaders with professional experiences from PAP Women’s Wing who currently serve as mentors and role models for young women.
Understanding community needs through partnerships
Sun said that branch chairs, activists, and our partners have been working together to advocate more support for women at critical junctures.
For instance, when women become new mothers and return to work after some time away from the workplace, they may struggle to balance caregiving and workplace responsibilities.
“As women, we are very familiar with the term roles and responsibilities. Many women find themselves stuck in a wedge trying to juggle roles at home as caregivers, mothers, and at workplaces as employers or employees,” Sun said.
“Women also often try to multitask and at times end up on a guilt trip, feeling that we have fallen short in our various responsibilities.”
Sim encourages more women and men to support the causes, saying, “We know the push for equity and equality for our women is one we cannot do on our own. Our work is never done, and we always need solid partners to help us take this movement forward.”
She added that she would be engaging in discussions with WW branches across five districts to get their ideas and plans for the future.
Sim told reporters that she hopes to form more partnerships between WW branches and like-minded individuals and groups to share essential knowledge in areas such as professional or technical competence that they hope most Singaporeans will be aware of.
A first discussion is scheduled for later this month, and she hopes to conclude the discussions within two to three months.
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