Remarks by Minister Indranee Rajah at the Dialogue with Social Workers on 10 October 2022
As DPM said, Forward SG is about refreshing our social compact.
Families are the building blocks of our society. They provide love, strength and are our anchors throughout life. Refreshing our social compact must necessarily include looking at how we can support and strengthen our families. This is important first and foremost at a personal level because families are precious to us, and also at a national level in the context of an ageing population and the need to raise our Total Fertility Rate (TFR).
With Forward SG, what we want to do, is to achieve a Singapore that is truly conducive for families and be a place where they can flourish and grow. This is a major part of the Care pillar of Forward SG.
When I took over the Marriage & Parenthood (M&P) portfolio, one of the first things I did together with MOS Sun Xueling and SPS Rahayu was to have a series of conversations with Singaporeans from all the different stages of M&P journey, from singles to young parents to those with fertility issues to understand their perspectives and what their concerns were.
We engaged over 300 participants. All agreed on the importance of families. Many shared the joys of having a family, but they also had concerns. These included, as DPM mentioned, the cost of raising children, childcare needs, holistic development of children, challenges in balancing work and family commitments, and more recently, housing issues have also been raised.
These were similarly reflected in our 2021 Marriage and Parenthood survey of more than 5,000 respondents which showed that the ability to manage the costs of child-raising, as well as work and family commitments, is a key consideration for Singaporeans in making parenthood decisions.
Based on all these citizen engagements, we have come up with the key thrusts as outlined by DPM Wong today.
However, these measures are only part of what has to be a much bigger endeavour, which is a whole-of-society effort to strengthen and support families. We want a society that values family well-being, is supportive of parents and caregiving and is committed to giving each child the best possible start in life. All of these, come under the banner of “A Singapore Made For Families”.
To achieve this, we need everyone to come together and do their part. The Government will make necessary policy moves, but we need the employers and HR managers too. We need them to make a concerted effort to design family friendly workplace culture and HR practices in a way that still allows achieve their business objectives while making their employees feel supported. FWAs will be an important part of this. We want productivity on both fronts – both at work and for the family!
Parents too have a role to play – do not be too hard on yourselves or your children, find the right balance. We need the dads to step up as well, and more importantly, for workplaces to support them in doing so – currently our utilisation rate of paternity leave is only around 50%! In today’s newspaper, it was reported that SIA allows air stewardess to have ground crew jobs when they are pregnant, and the option of going back as air stewardess after giving birth. That is one example of what we can do to make things more family-friendly.
The work on “A Singapore Made For Families” is on-going but by no means done. There is still much room for input, insights and ideas. We look forward to hearing from you.