In the Straits Times today: a letter by my former boss who I always thought as a reasonable man......well, apparently he has decided he needs to be elbow-deep with the Sing government......
SINGAPORE may introduce legislation requiring employers to allow part-time work, and carry the cost. As a Dutch citizen whose country has such laws, may I sound a word of caution?
Singapore has built a successful economy partly by holding people responsible for their choices while supporting the needy. In many Western economies, people push the consequences of their decisions on work-life balance, family size and the like to other citizens via welfare, unemployment benefits, childcare subsidies, long paid holidays, long maternity leave and part-time employment. Labour becomes expensive and inflexible. The associated high tax rates remove the incentive to work hard and take risk.
Singapore cannot afford to fall into this welfare trap. It would lose its competitive position both as supplier of goods and services as well as employer of world-class talent.
Putting the burden on employers is unfair. Having children is a personal decision. As part of the national birth rate, it is perhaps a topic of public policy. But never is an employer more than an innocent bystander.
Therefore, if the workplace becomes an instrument of public policy, the cost should be borne by the Government. That cost is considerable: Capital (machinery, office space) is used less efficiently if tasks are shared between staff.
Another cost is lower flexibility of part-timers. People work part-time because they have other commitments they either must or want to honour.
To have sufficient capacity, an employer will need more full-time employees when using part-timers, as opposed to asking full-timers to work longer sometimes and take time off later as compensation.
Finally, why seek higher birth rates as the reason? The world population is already too large. Global warming, food shortages and pollution are problems partly caused by population pressure. Ageing populations are not an evil to be battled. They are an unavoidable adjustment process to reduce the world population.
Take Singapore. A population of almost five million is already an ambitious target. What is the purpose of making a large part of the population semi-redundant so they can grow the population, mainly to grow an economy which we have first shrunk by allowing people to work part-time?
A smaller number of fully employed people must be the better option.
Wilfred Frederik Nagel