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Written Answer by Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Acting Minister for Manpower, to Parliamentary Question on Long Working Hours Of Singaporeans

Notice Paper No. 17 of 2014 For The Sitting On 21 Jan 2014 Question No. 1688

MP: Assoc Prof Tan Kheng Boon Eugene

To ask the Acting Minister for Manpower (a) what is the amount of working hours clocked by Singaporean workers for each year over the last 10 years; (b) whether the long working hours play a contributory role in the low productivity level in the workforce; and (c) what are the tripartite partners doing about the physical, social, and health concerns that flow from the long working hours and whether more can be done to achieve a better work-life balance.


  1. Last year, employed residents in Singapore worked 45.6 hours per week on average, a slight decline from the 47.4 hours per week a decade before. This reflects the rise in part-time employment1. Among full-timers, there was an increase in hours worked during the economic rebound in 2010 to 49.2 hours, from 47.9 hours in 2009, although this subsequently eased to 48.2 hours in 2012 with the slowdown in economic growth2.
  2. Studies overseas have shown that excessively long working hours can have a negative impact on productivity, largely due to the adverse effects on workers’ physiological and psychological well-being. The studies also show that more flexible working arrangements that better promote work-life harmony can help to improve employees’ well-being and productivity. When firms adopt a flexible working culture which is outcome driven rather than based on hours worked, individuals can better manage their time between work and personal needs. This will ultimately benefit businesses as well.
  3. The Government has put in place a range of initiatives to promote flexible work arrangements. This includes the WorkPro programme which was launched in April this year. Jointly developed with the National Trades Union Congress and the Singapore National Employers Federation, WorkPro is a one-stop programme to encourage employers to build progressive workplaces, including implementing flexible work arrangements.
  4. The Tripartite Committee on Work-Life Strategy also works closely with various agencies, including the Employer Alliance, to promote work-life and flexible work arrangements through development forums, training, tool kits and case studies etc.
  5. We are heartened to see a rising trend of employers offering flexible work arrangements to their employees. In 2012, 41% of establishments offered at least one form of work-life arrangement to their employees, up from 25% in 2007. However, we believe employers can do more to offer flexible work arrangements to their employees, and we will continue to work closely with our tripartite partners to promote the adoption of flexible work arrangements and other progressive employment practices.

1 Part-timers formed 9.6% of employed residents in 2012, up from 8.4% in 2009. Comparable data for part-timers are available starting from 2009, when the definition for part-timers was changed from below 30 to below 35 hours a week to align with the revised definition in the Employment Act.
2 After contracting by 0.8% in 2009, Singapore’s real gross domestic product grew by 14.8% in 2010, before slowing to 5.2% in 2011 and 1.3% in 2012.
3 Source: MOM’s Conditions of Employment Survey 2012.