Wooing women back to work

Wooing women back to work
PHOTO: The Straits Times

In 2015, nearly 185,000 women aged 18 to 54 were not in the Singapore labour force.

To encourage more women to return to work, the labour movement is suggesting that the Government fund a "Returnship Programme" - similar to an internship - starting with the early childhood and social services sectors.

This is one of the recommendations for Budget 2017 mooted by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

In a release outlining its recommendations yesterday, NTUC called for targeted help for workers to "transit and thrive" in a fast-changing labour market.

This includes suggestions on how to address cyclical and structural unemployment, improving productivity, offering protection for contract workers, freelancers and low-wage workers, and helping workers to move into new and future jobs (see graphic on right).

The Returnship Programme is targeted at women looking to work again and it will offer a job trial spanning two to four months.

During the job trial, the employer would be supported in terms of seed funding for the training programme, and the employee would also be paid a wage, said Mr Desmond Choo, who is the NTUC Champion for Women and Family.

Upon completion of the trial, a successful job seeker would be offered the position and embark on actual Professional Conversion Programmes training.

Photo: The New Paper

Mr Choo, who will be elaborating on the Returnship Programme in Parliament in debates after Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat's Budget Speech on Feb 20, told The New Paper that it will address the gap that back-to-work women face.

"Some women sacrifice their careers for their families for a few years and find that their current job choices may be very rigid, especially if they are trying to get back to work after a long time," said Mr Choo.

"They might also need a mindset adjustment to fulfil the expectations required of a full-time employee."

Mr Choo said that the early childhood and social service sectors were chosen to start off the programme because these industries require soft skills, and are short on manpower.

Madam Elynn Liew, 39, who runs online job portal Careermums - targeted at mothers who want to join the workforce on a part-time, freelance or flexi-time basis - said that the Returnship Programme is a "good stepping stone".

The mother-of-two added: "I think the early childhood sector might attract some mothers because of its flexible and part-time hours.

"But the remuneration could be adjusted so that it is more attractive as well."

Mr Choo believes the programme will be a good way of allowing women to explore a new career.

He added: "With the slowing economy, it is also a way they can chip in to help their family."


This article was first published on Jan 18, 2017.
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