Unlike what some might choose to believe, Singaporeans do have a voice.
And that voice is exemplified when our Members of Parliament (MPs) speak up about the difficulties and challenges experienced by their constituents.
Case in point: MP of Jurong GRC Dr Tan Wu Meng shared in Parliament last week the hurdles caregivers face when they return to the workforce:
“I’ve met Clementi residents who stopped work to care for a parent who was ill. But when the filial son or daughter, in their 40s and 50s, tried to get back to the workforce, some employers would write them off because of the gap in the CV.”
Employers like that do exist. Despite what LinkedIn would like us to believe, the workplace is not always rainbows and unicorns.
For mature workers, women, persons with disability or even those with a gap in their CV for legitimate reasons, the employment market can be rife with undertones of prejudice and discrimination.
With so much at stake, what is being done to encourage more inclusive HR practices? That was MP Tan’s question, and it is also what we want to know.
The PAP – championing a fair and inclusive workplace
If we were to look back on our childhood, one of the most frequently uttered phrases would be, “Not fair!”.
As children, we seek fairness at every turn. We expect our parents not to play favourites and our teachers to treat us impartially.
And even though the word ‘fair’ tends to fade away from our lexicon and is brushed off as a childish indignance in adulthood, it is safe to say that many of us still view the world through the same lens.
After all, fairness and equality are ingrained in our Singaporean psyche. We expect that every Singaporean is given the same opportunity regardless of our background, race, religion, or gender.
At the same time, we collectively aspire to be an inclusive society, one that cares for the less well-off and vulnerable.
Perhaps this is why the account shared by MP Tan strikes a chord.
After all, it is a classic example of non-inclusive behaviour, along with ageism and sexism. None of it should have a place in any enlightened society.
For that reason, the PAP government has been using a mix of public education, gentle persuasion and finally legislation to champion fair and progressive employment practices for nearly two decades.
In her reply to MP Tan, Minister of State (MOS) for Manpower Gan Siow Huang mentioned the release of an interim report comprising 20 recommendations for workplace fairness legislation that will protect Singaporeans, including caregivers, from discriminatory practices at work.
The workplace fairness legislation will mark another step by the PAP to tackle workplace discrimination to cover all stages of the employment process, strengthening gaps in current legislation while also acknowledging the needs of employers.
Once implemented, it will strengthen the protection for workers by prohibiting the most common types of workplace discrimination, be it age, race, mental health conditions, caregiving responsibilities and put in place more processes for dispute resolution.
A Singapore without discrimination
At the core of the PAP’s values, is a mission to build a fair and just society where the benefits of progress are spread widely to all.
And one of the ways we can achieve that mission is to ensure that all job applicants are given a fair chance at proving themselves rather than being confined to a box prejudged to be inferior.
While the Government has made significant progress at addressing discrimination (i.e. the proportion of job applicants who have experienced discrimination has fallen from 43 in 2018 to 25 per cent in 2021), to have one in four of us crying foul about unfair workplace practices is still one too many.
When enshrined in law, the workplace fairness legislation should address this and lower the numbers even further by pushing society in the right direction to build progressive and harmonious workplaces.
After all, there is a causality between work and family conflicts. Think about it – how many of us have been guilty of responding inadequately to our families after a stressful day at work?
Fundamentally, allowing unfair workplace practices to fester would mean contributing to a disintegration of stable and happy family life.
As Minister for Manpower Dr Tan See Leng shared, rooting out discrimination is a whole-of-society effort. It requires knowledge, understanding, and ownership by employers and the support of employees.
Because only then will we be able to build a fair, just and inclusive society, which is the sort of place we want, not only for ourselves but our children too.
Images via MOM, TAFEP, MyCareersFuture, PSD