Workplace support for young couples can help in their career, parenthood goals: Josephine Teo

April 4, 201610:50 am499 views
Workplace support for young couples can help in their career, parenthood goals: Josephine Teo
File photo of a family outing at Marina Barrage. Photo: Goh Chiew Tong.

To help young couples achieve both career and parenthood aspirations, the support of employers and co-workers must feature heavily, said Senior Minister of State at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Josephine Teo on Sunday (Apr 3).

Earlier in March, it was announced that Singapore will soon legislate a second week of paternity leave, but figures from last year show fewer than half of new fathers in the country took the first week of mandatory paternity leave, let alone the second voluntary week of leave.

Since January last year, fathers could receive an additional week, but only if their companies agreed to it.

Bringing up an example, Mrs Teo who oversees population matters as a Senior Minister of State at the PMO, said in a Facebook post that even in Denmark where 60 per cent take up paternity leave entitlements, a minority of workplaces send discouraging signals to fathers.

Danish mothers have four weeks of paid leave before birth, and another 14 weeks after, while Danish fathers get two weeks of paid leave when the child is born.

Mrs Teo, who is also Senior of Minister in the Transport and Foreign Affairs ministries, also compared the workplace norms with the situation in South Korea. “It is worse in Korea which has similar paternity leave provisions but sees less than 1 per cent usage,” she said. “Expectations to participate in after-work socialising add to the already-long work hours.”

However, Mrs Teo said the overall workplace culture in Denmark gives strong support to family life. “There’s deeper recognition among corporate leaders that a family-friendly work environment makes them more attractive as employers, promotes productivity and is good for business,” she added.

In a 2015 study, Denmark was found to have the best work-life balance in the developed world. Flexi-work is a hallmark of Denmark, and one that the Singapore Government is studying to encourage people to start families.


According to Mrs Teo, there is no single policy intervention that will boost birth rates. The key, she said, lies in strengthening Singapore as a great place for families.

“We have sound economic fundamentals,” she wrote. “Even as the economy undergoes structural change, employment levels remain high. Couples have access to affordable public housing and good quality education for their children. Families are getting more support in caring for seniors, particularly in healthcare.”

In 2015, Mrs Teo said there were a total of 23,805 marriages in Singapore, the second-highest in more than a decade. A total of 33,793 babies were also born in the Republic’s Golden Jubilee year, which is the highest in more than a decade, she added.

“Collectively, we must make marriage and parenthood more achievable, enjoyable and celebrated,” she said.

Mrs Teo’s remarks came after she concluded a week-long to South Korea and Denmark last month to study how the two countries encourage marriage and parenthood.

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