Can a 4-day work week help S’poreans create more babies? 

Is Singapore ready for a 4-day work week?

Perhaps a desired side effect of a more flexible working arrangement is that Singapore might experience a bump in our fertility rate.

Labour MP Melvin Yong asked Minister of State for Manpower Gan Siow Huang in Parliament on Tuesday (Sep 13) if the Ministry of Manpower might be open to conducting a 4-day work week trial in Ministry of Manpower or within the public service to determine the pros and cons of such a work arrangement. 

“For example, how a reduced work week can possibly better facilitate and encourage employees’ continual training and upskilling, because setting aside one day a week for training and upskilling can be a win for both workers and companies. And with better work-life balance, perhaps a win also for Singapore, with possibly more babies.”

In response, Gan said that the ministry does not intend to run such trials but urged both the private and public sectors to try different types of flexible work arrangements including a 4-day work week, and, if applicable, apply something that best fits the workplace. 

Important to adopt a flexible mindset 

On the topic of a 4-day work week, Gan noted that results from pilot studies in other countries appear to be mixed. 

She highlighted several key concerns from implementing a 4-day work week: impact on productivity, business costs, and employee well-being. 

“While productivity improvements have been reported in some cases, this depends on the sector and job type. In some instances, reduced hours have had to be compensated by hiring more labour. At the same time, employees are concerned that their salaries could be reduced due to fewer hours worked, or some could face increased stress when they work more hours than usual in a day to complete their work.”

Pilot studies on a 4-day work week are underway in other countries and results have been mixed. However, the manpower ministry encourages all companies to be open to all forms of flexible work arrangements. Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

More important is the need to adopt a flexible mindset, according to Gan.

“A 4-day work week is one of many types of flexible work arrangements, and the ministry together with our tripartite partners strongly encourage employers and employees to be open to flexible work arrangements in all its various forms.” 

Cover photo credit: Singhealth Polyclinics