|Five-day workweek= poor work-life balance?|
|Wednesday, 11 February 2009 08:00|
In a controversial speech in Parliament last Wednesday, Nominated MP Loo Choon Yong said the move by the public and private sectors in 2004 to have a five-day work week could have eroded the Singaporean work ethic.
The purpose of the move was to promote better work-life balance and give the fertility rate a boost.
But the number of live births nudged up only slightly from 37,485 in 2003 to 39,490 in 2007 Indeed, 'We should accept that as a people, our procreation talent is not our forte - nothing to crow about,' said Dr Loo.
'I urge the Government to take steps to determine whether our productivity and competitiveness have been affected by the five-day week and to review the policy if necessary.'
Dr Loo's comments come at a time when businesses in Singapore are considering a shorter work week as a wayof reducing wage costs.
This has spawned a range of views among different groups.
Why link births & work week?
Workers and human resources experts The New Paper spoke to said they do not agree with the views of Dr Loo, who is also the executive chairman of Raffles Medical Group.
Mrs Jessica Zhuo, 29, a regulation officer, said: 'I think there is no direct correlation between birth rate and the number of workdays.'
She feels a longer work week would not change her family life significantly. 'For my family, there's a lot of work and very little life. I work five days a week, but my husband works 5-1/2 to six days a week.'
Mrs Zhuo, who has been married for nine months and has no children, added that a longer work week will affect married couples with children more than childless couples or singles.
Half days not productive She also noted that it is counterproductive to work half a day on Saturday if one considers the amount of time spent travelling to work in proportion to the number of working hours.
Agreeing, executive Foong Shipei, 27, added: 'Even if a longer work week meant shorter hours on weekdays, I would rather work longer hours on weekdays than come back for an extra day.
'I used to work six days a week, and it was stressful and I couldn't get enough rest.'
She has been married for more than a year and has a new born baby.
Work ethos affected?
In the Hardware Zone forum, one netizen wrote: '(Dr Loo) still carries the age-old perception of 'physically being in the office equals work done'.' Human resources experts are also not convinced by Dr Loo's arguments either.
Mr David Ang, executive director of the Singapore Human Resources Institute (SHRI) said: 'It's not true that five-day week leads to bad work ethos.
'Productivity and competitiveness is not simply a function of working hours alone.'
Adecco South East Asia's regional director Lynne Ng said: 'Whether work is performed in five days or 5-1/2 days, it's about how productive work time is for employees. Are they able to work effectively and in an environment in which they can contribute and perform at the level that is expected of them?'
Mr Paul Heng, managing director of NeXT Career Consulting Group, Asia, pointed out that the five-day work week was not implemented just to boost birth rates.
'There's more to it. Work-life balance (for instance),' he said.
'We are a modern, international business hub. To attract, retain talent, we have to go along with what other countries are doing. A good work-life balance has been cited as one of the key contributing factors to staff retention.'
Less tired before
Not everyone found fault with Dr Loo's comments though.
Joseph wrote on AsiaOne: 'I totally agree with (him). The (five-day week) scheme had backfired since workers now work longer hours during the weekdays and end up returning home much later as compared to the previous 5-1/2 (day) work week.
'My wife and I now get so tired every workday that we hardly even talk after dinner and would retire to bed much earlier. Weekends are spent resting and sleeping late to recuperate from five continuous workdays with long working hours.'
So, what is Dr Loo's response to this criticism? A Raffles Medical Group's spokesman said he could not reply by press time as he would be out of town.
This article was first published in The New Paper