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Written Answer to PQ on Initiatives to Improve Female Labour Force Participation Rate

MP: Mr Desmond Choo
To ask the Minister for Manpower whether he can provide an update on the initiatives and their progress to improve female labour force participation rate over the last five years.
1. We have made good progress in raising our female Labour Force Participation Rate over the past five years. LFPR for women aged 25 to 64 has increased from 74.8% in 2018 to 78.6% in 2021, which is higher than countries such as Canada and the UK. As laid out in the White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development, we will continue to improve female LFPR through a few key initiatives.
2. First, we continue to encourage the adoption of Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs) such as staggered working hours, part-time work and telecommuting. FWAs help caregivers better work balance and caregiving responsibilities. We have seen good progress in the provision of FWAs by employers; the proportion of employers offering at least one formal FWA has significantly increased from 53% in 2018 to 91% in 2021. Tripartite Partners will give this a further push, by introducing a set of Tripartite Guidelines on FWAs by 2024. The guidelines aim to make requesting for FWAs a workplace norm, by requiring employers to put in place proper processes to fairly consider and respond to employees’ requests for FWAs. We will also continue to support employers with training and tools to implement FWAs effectively and sustainably. We are heartened that some employers, HR professionals and employees have already come together to co-create FWA tools, through the Alliance for Action on Work-Life Harmony.
3. Second, we continue to support women who have taken a break from their careers and need more support to return to work. They can tap on the full range of programmes and services offered by Workforce Singapore (WSG). Over the last three years, WSG and NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (NTUC’s e2i) have placed more than 83,000 women jobseekers across its programmes and services. This represents around 47% of all jobseekers placed by WSG and NTUC’s e2i, similar to the share of women in the labour force. In June 2022, WSG launched the herCareer initiative, a new, focussed effort to support women who are re-entering the workforce. The herCareer initiative includes employment facilitation programmes and services that support women jobseekers and walk-in interviews to meet with hiring employers on the spot.
4. Third, we will continue to support women with caregiving responsibilities to participate in the workforce with a peace of mind. Since 2012, we have more than doubled full-day preschool capacity to over 200,000 places today. We enhanced means-tested preschool subsidies so that more families pay less for preschool. Working mothers are also granted additional tax relief. To support those who are working and need to take care of elderly family members at home, we have expanded caregiving options that families can tap on.
5. We will also strengthen efforts to ensure that all workers, including women, are treated fairly at the workplace. The recommendations in the interim report released by the Tripartite Committee on Workplace Fairness will prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, legislate the requirement for employers to put in place grievance handling processes, and provide legislated protection against retaliation for those who report workplace discrimination and harassment.