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More workers can opt for flexible work arrangements: MOM report

SINGAPORE - The share of workers here whose companies offer formal flexible work arrangements continues to grow, and employers are offering more types of arrangements.

Last year, 72 per cent of employees worked in companies that offer at least one such arrangement, such as part-time work, flexible hours or tele-working, up from 70 per cent in 2017.

Also, more were offered at least one ad-hoc arrangement: The figure rose to 87 per cent last year, up from 81 per cent in 2017, according to the latest Conditions of Employment Report released by the Manpower Ministry on Wednesday (Jan 16).

The share of firms offering at least two types of flexi-work arrangements also rose to 22.7 per cent last year, from 16.8 per cent in 2017.

Offering these arrangements makes business sense, as employees are more likely to stay with a company with such options, especially as the new generation of workers value flexibility a lot more, said Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad on Wednesday at an event to share the findings.

"Employees, likewise, when offered flexible work arrangements, see it as a sign that they are valued by the company and that the company is willing to accommodate employees' responsibilities outside of work. It is also about trust; employees feel 'You trust me to get the work done even though I'm not sitting at my desk'," he said.

The provision of flexible arrangements had the greatest impact on staff retention among various workplace practices, the MOM report said.

The biennial report, which covered about 1.3 million workers and 3,700 firms, said that increases in annual leave entitlement and reductions in the number of work days per week led to the next biggest decreases in resignation rates.

Compared with the previous survey in 2016, a greater proportion of firms offered paid marriage leave and family care leave last year but a smaller proportion offered paid study or examination leave and compassionate leave.

Mr Zaqy also took part in a dialogue with about 200 HR professionals and business leaders at the Singapore Human Resources Institute Outlook event at One Marina Boulevard.

They discussed topics including remaining open to foreign talent and retaining  younger workers.

Mr Zaqy said job hopping is a sign of an economy that has been doing well, which is good compared with high youth unemployment rates in some other countries. 

Younger people have more options now both in terms of jobs and the flexibility to stay out of the job market for a while, he said. 

He told the audience: “You’re no longer just competing with competitors in the industry for manpower, you’re also competing against other interests too.”

Some gig economy jobs actually pay better than entry-level jobs for polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education graduates, he said.

At the dialogue, a participant also raised the concern of managing the rising costs of health benefits as staff age. 

Mr Zaqy said portable medical benefits and greater reliance on national health insurance schemes offered by the Government may be the way forward so that companies may not need to provide as much health insurance coverage for staff. 

“Over time as people get more confident in how schemes like MediShield Life and the upcoming CareShield Life work, there may be some recalibration over time,” he said.

Also at the event, SHRI and the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises signed an agreement to set up a new specialised centre to provide practical support to bosses of smaller firms who want to improve their HR practices. They aim to open the SHRI SME Human Capital Centre next year. 

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