58-member Citizens’ Panel convenes to create new solutions for work-life harmony
58 Singaporeans from all walks of life came together for the first time today to form the Citizens’ Panel on Work-Life Harmony. The Panel will meet between September and November 2019 to propose new ways to strengthen work-life harmony in Singapore, including a more supportive societal and workplace culture. Employers, employees, the self-employed and retirees have volunteered to join the Panel to design solutions that would better enable Singaporeans to work in a manner that matches their personal goals for a fulfilling life.
First announced by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Mr Heng Swee Keat in June 2019, the Citizens’ Panel on Work-Life Harmony is part of the SG Together movement for the Government to partner Singaporeans to co-create and co-deliver solutions across a wide range of policy areas. The Panel is also part of a series of engagements with Singaporeans led by Manpower Minister Mrs Josephine Teo, who also assists Senior Minister Mr Teo Chee Hean on Population matters, to help make starting families more achievable, enjoyable, and celebrated.
More than 300 members of the public responded to the call in July 2019 to participate in the Citizens’ Panel. The Panel comprises members with diverse experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives, and includes employers from different industries, workers in different forms of employment, and individuals with different marital status, and family responsibilities.
The Citizens’ Panel represents a new way of involving the community in collective thinking and action. Panel members will have access to a wide range of information and subject-matter experts, and the time to deliberate on the issues at hand. The Panel’s recommendations will be submitted to the relevant stakeholders (e.g. tripartite partners, community groups, Government) at the last session. Panel members are also encouraged to help test out the ideas they propose.
Mrs Josephine Teo, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Manpower, Ms Low Yen Ling, and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development, and Education, Assoc Prof Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim attended the first session today, where they joined Panel members and tripartite leaders in discussions about the current and desired states of work-life harmony in Singapore. In subsequent sessions, the Panel will deliberate on the practical challenges and trade-offs in achieving work-life harmony, as well as priority areas and actions that could be pursued over the next 12 months by all stakeholders, including citizens, community partners, employers and the Government.
Minister Josephine Teo said: “I am glad to see Singaporeans from all walks of life coming together, and wanting to make a difference in an issue that’s close to all our hearts. The Citizens’ Panel on Work-Life Harmony will discuss ways to forge a new societal consensus on workplace culture and social norms to help Singaporeans achieve a more fulfilling life. The Panel is also a new way of how the Government is partnering Singaporeans to co-create and co-deliver solutions, for Singaporeans. I look forward to us collectively finding a way forward for Work-Life Harmony in Singapore.”
Singaporeans who are not part of the Panel can continue to share their views and ideas on the topic through the suggestion box at http://heybaby.sg/PlayAPart. More information about the Panel can be found at http://www.ideas.gov.sg/public/CitizensPanel_WorkLifeHarmony.
Please refer to Annex A for more information about the Panel.
More Information on the Citizens’ Panel on Work-Life Harmony
1) How is the composition of the Panel determined?
All Singapore Citizens aged 21 years and above were welcomed to apply to be a part of the Panel. More than 300 members of the public responded to the call for participation, which was opened from 15 to 31 July 2019.
To ensure sufficient diversity in experiences, backgrounds and perspectives to enrich the discussions, the Panel is formed by 58 Singaporeans, comprising employers from different industries, employees with different employment status (e.g. full-time, part-time, freelancers), individuals with different marital status and various family responsibilities (e.g. parents or caregivers to other family members).
2) Why is there a limit to the number of Panel members How can others who want to share their views do so?
We had intended to form a Panel of about 50 members. However, given the enthusiastic response and for wider diversity in representation, we have increased the number to 58. This would provide a greater diversity in experiences, backgrounds and views to enrich the discussions. At the same time, we also want to ensure that all the Panel members are meaningfully engaged, and are given the opportunity to discuss and deliberate the issue and recommendations in-depth. We also recognise that the bigger the Panel, the more challenging it would be for the Panel members to organise themselves, given the intensity of discussions and time constraint.
In addition to the Panel, we welcome Singaporeans to share their views and ideas on strengthening support for work-life harmony and/or marriage and parenthood through our suggestion box at heybaby.sg/PlayAPart. The suggestions will also be provided to the Panel for their consideration and deliberation.
3) What is a Citizens’ Panel, and what is the Citizens’ Panel on Work-Life Harmony about?
A Citizens’ Panel is an immersive way of involving the wider community in examining an issue of national interest and co-developing solutions with the Government. Through this, citizens will be able to deliberate, discuss and make informed recommendations on ways to address these issues.
The Citizens’ Panel on Work-Life Harmony is an opportunity for Singaporeans to work more directly with the Government and other stakeholders to:
a. identify underlying factors and gain deeper insights on issues that affect Singaporeans’ work-life harmony, in the context of supporting families; and
b. identify trade-offs and develop solutions, including those that could be undertaken directly by business owners, supervisors and workers, to create the conditions for work-life harmony in Singapore.
4) What is the scope of the discussion for the Citizens’ Panel on Work-Life Harmony?
The discussions will focus on (i) identifying underlying factors affecting work-life harmony in the context of supporting families (including marriage and parenthood aspirations), (ii) the related issues and trade-offs, and (iii) developing solutions that could be implemented by the whole of society.
Discussion topics may include (but are not limited to):
a. establishing workplace practices and culture which enable flexible work arrangements1;
b. redesigning jobs and work processes to enable those who wish to reduce work intensity to care for their families; and
c. recognising trade-offs that individuals and companies may need to make between income/revenue, work intensity, relative career trajectories and work flexibility.
5) When will the Panel be held?
Panel members will come together over four full Saturdays (28 September, 12 October, 26 October, 9 November 2019).
6) What will it be like to be part of this Panel?
The Panel will offer its members an opportunity to exchange views and work more directly with the Government on ways to achieve work-life harmony. They will deliberate on practical challenges and trade-offs, and make recommendations to strengthen support for Singaporeans in managing their work and family commitments, including fulfilling marriage and parenthood aspirations, and caring for other family members.
The Panel members will examine issues related to work-life harmony in small discussion groups, and brainstorm ways to address them. During the process, Panel members will be supported with access to a wider range of information than what is made available in typical engagement sessions. For example, Panel members will be able to engage a panel of subject-matter experts (e.g. human resource professionals, business leaders, and organisations that work with families) who will provide information and advice on work-life matters (e.g. existing measures, statistics, examples from other countries), to help them make informed recommendations.
Over six weeks of involvement, Panel members will learn more about work-life issues, have robust and in-depth discussions, and prepare a report of their recommendations that will be presented to the tripartite partners and possibly other stakeholders. The Government, together with other relevant stakeholders, will subsequently provide a response to the Panel’s recommendations.
7) When will the Panel be expected to submit their recommendations?
The Panel will submit their recommendations at the last session on 9 November 2019.
8) Why the need for a Citizens’ Panel on Work-Life Harmony when we have been grappling with work-life balance issues for a long time?
Workplace culture and social norms are powerful influences on people’s choices at work and in their personal lives, including their decisions on dating, marriage, having children and caring for family members. While there have already been efforts by the government, employers, workers and the community to support more family-friendly workplace practices, it is timely to review these efforts, build on them and seek fresh ideas on how to improve the conditions for work-life harmony for Singaporeans. Citizens on the Panel will deliberate on the potential benefits and trade-offs of their recommendations, and co-develop and deliver solutions that can better support Singaporeans in this aspect.
9) How is the Citizens’ Panel on Work-Life Harmony different from other engagement/feedback sessions?
The Citizens’ Panel on Work-Life Harmony is an opportunity for Singaporeans to go beyond contributing ideas, to co-creating solutions with the Government and other stakeholders. They may even put some of the recommendations into action themselves. Panel members take ownership of their ideas by formulating a set of their own recommendations at the end of the engagement sessions. This report will be presented to the tripartite partners (and possibly other stakeholders), who will subsequently provide a response to the Panel’s proposed recommendations.
10) What measures has the government put in place currently to support Singaporeans in achieving work-life harmony?
Today, parents are eligible for 22 weeks of leave in the child’s first year, which include:
a. 16 weeks’ paid Maternity Leave for working mothers
b. Shared Parental Leave - working fathers are eligible for up to four weeks of the 16 weeks of Maternity Leave, subject to the agreement of the mother)
c. Two weeks’ Government-paid Paternity Leave for working fathers
d. Six days’ paid child care leave per parent per year
e. Six days’ unpaid infant care leave per parent per year (if they have at least one child aged below two years)
All employees benefit from more flexibility in managing their work and family commitments. Employers are encouraged to provide this through:
a. Work-Life Grant of up to $105,000 per company, to encourage employers to sustain employees’ adoption of flexible work arrangements (FWAs)
b. Tripartite Standard on FWAs, which encourages employers to offer FWAs in their companies
c. Tripartite Standard on Unpaid Leave for Unexpected Caregiving Needs, which encourages employers to provide unpaid leave when their employees have urgent caregiving needs
A job-sharing implementation guide to educate and guide employers to put in place such a FWA was also recently launched.
11) How have Citizens’ Panels/Juries been used overseas and to what effect?
The Citizens’ Panel is based on the Citizens’ Jury process invented by political scientist Ned Crosby, the founder of the Jefferson Center in the United States of America, with the aim of creating a process where citizens could participate in policy-making, discuss trade-offs involved, and develop solutions that the whole of society can participate in. The concept has also been adopted in other countries such as the UK and Australia, on issues ranging from “Economy and Federal Debt” (USA), to the sharing of health records (UK), and compulsory third party insurance (Australia). The reports of these Juries have been published and submitted to policymakers.
1 Flexi-Time (including staggered start/end hours), Flexi-load (including Part-time arrangements), Flexi-place (telecommuting)