Thursday, February 07, 2013

Work-life balance

I give my views on how to achieve a better work life balance in Singapore.

We have to look at experiences of other countries that are successful in achieving a good work life balance. Australia comes to mind. Here are the key factors. 
1. They have a high minimum wage
2. They have regulations on maximum working hours; employers are required to pay for overtime work at 1.5 to 2 times of the normal wages
3. They have unemployment benefit for workers who lost their jobs.

The fair terms of employment and job security encourages the workers to work for what is expected of the job, and do not force them to compete hard or work long hours, just to be sure that they can keep their jobs.

They can feel secure in working the expected hours, and leave time for the family and leisure. Over time, this becomes the national norm. The Australians enjoy their sports and hobbies. (At least, this is the impression that I get after talking to many Australians).

The next question that comes to mind is - can Singaporeans afford to work less hard, when we have to compete in the global economy and do not have the natural resources that are available to other countries?

I believe that we can. Here are my reasons:
1. The extra hard work that is put in by Singaporeans are, to a fairly significant extent, not really productive. We stay back long hours to appear to be hard working. We spent some of the time on unproductive and unnecessary work.
2. The long hours of work mean more profit to the owners or higher rentals for properties, and do not translate into growth for the economy; this is reflected in our high income gap.

If we adopt a better work life balance, we can still be competitive and leave more time for workers to spend with the family.

To achieve this goal, regulation of working hours and work practices is required. We cannot depend on the free market, as the freedom leads to exploitation of the workers with weak bargaining powers. 

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