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    Apr 29, 2014

    Stay-at-home mums to ease labour crunch?

    AS SINGAPORE grapples with its manpower crunch, some neglected womanpower could provide the solution.

    But to attract these thousands of women, as well as some older residents, back to the workforce, employers should redesign jobs and offer flexible work arrangements.

    These economically inactive individuals amount to a group of about 375,000 whom companies can recruit, said Singapore National Employers Federation (Snef) president Stephen Lee yesterday.

    Among them, 208,000 are women between the ages of 25 and 54, while 167,000 are men and women aged between 55 and 64.

    Mr Lee urged employers to make use of the Government's WorkPro programme to make their workplaces more age- and family-friendly.

    Experts told My Paper that getting the economically inactive back to the workforce is a good idea, but execution is key.

    So how does one woo back a woman who may have opted out of the workforce?

    Sher-Li Torrey, founder of social enterprise Mums@Work, said companies must have a cultural change, with the acceptance of flexi-work arrangements by both line managers and co-workers.

    For example, a back-at-work mum offered flexi-work may stir the envy of colleagues.

    While blue-collar jobs tend to have "clear deliverables" and fixed hours, these are less well-defined for white-collar workers, Mrs Torrey added.

    "When women opt out of the workforce...They must have been financially prepared...If you want them to come back, the jobs must be meaningful and have the flexibility they need," she said.

    The Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy's Hui Weng Tat said that in sectors such as food-and-beverage and retail, which face labour shortages, "remuneration may not be attractive enough".

    Associate Professor Hui also said that a balance must be struck between encouraging families to have children and boosting the workforce.

    Mark Hall, vice-president and country manager of Kelly Services, said the economically inactive group can be recruited for "hard-to-fill positions traditionally associated with the foreign workforce".

    But flexibility is important. Older workers, for example, may prefer convenient work locations and shorter hours, while women with children would require childcare arrangements and flexible working hours, Mr Hall said.

    Mr Lee said more than 800 firms have benefited from WorkPro, which has a $170 million government kitty to help companies fund job redesigns and implement work-life measures.