More mums returning to work [Strait Times – 10th April 2011]

More mums returning to work
Trend buoyed by groups catering for such job seekers, and flexible work options


Strait Times – 10th April 2011
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More stay-at-home mothers are heading back to work, buoyed partly by the willingness of bosses to offer flexible work arrangements.

This trend is in line with the strategy of the National Trades Union Congress’ Women’s Development Secretariat (WDS) to boost the employment rate for economically inactive women like them.

The WDS, which runs a Back2Work With U (B2W) programme to help women return to the workforce, said it helped more than 3,000 women find jobs last year. In the first three months of this year alone, it has placed more than 1,000 women.

Since the programme started in 2007, it has helped nearly 9,400 women find jobs again.

This group of mothers is increasingly interested in returning to the workplace, said industry experts.

For instance, they may want to help supplement the family income, given rising costs, or ensure that their skill sets stay relevant, said Ms Melissa Norman, managing director of Kelly Services.

Mrs Sher-li Torrey, founder of Mums@Work, a social enterprise supporting mothers who want to find work, added that being more educated, today’s women do not want to totally abandon their careers, especially if they feel they had worked hard to attain certain seniority.

Mrs Torrey, 34, a Singaporean, set up Mums@Work early last year to help mothers looking for professional employment.

‘I realised that most schemes cater to women as a whole, but there are a lot of women who were previously managers and directors and now want to return to a similar role,’ she said.

On April 29, Mums@Work and online job portal Careermums will organise a networking session for about 100 mothers who are professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs). At least 25 employers, including Ikea and DBS Bank, will be present at the session at the Drama Centre in the National Library in Victoria Street.

Registration is still open and interested participants can register on either the website of Mums@Work at or the one run by Careermums at

Madam Halimah Yacob, deputy secretary-general of the NTUC, said the Government in the last few years has been encouraging women to rejoin the workforce.

‘If you look at the employment rate, there’s quite a significant difference between the number of men and women who are employed. At the same time, we want to encourage the use of local labour. Realising this, we’re trying to tap them as an alternative source so as to reduce reliance on foreigners,’ she said.

‘We also get a lot of requests from them, saying they want to return to work, so we try to provide them with some opportunities.’

At WDS, which she helms, women of all qualifications are trained and paired with jobs in industries such as retail, and food and beverage. From 2008, it also worked with 265 companies to create flexi-work options.

A recent Manpower Ministry survey found that 35.4 per cent of some 3,410 companies here provided at least one form of family- friendly arrangement for staff.

Mr Josh Goh, assistant director of corporate services at recruitment firm The GMP Group said: ‘In today’s tight labour market, it is very challenging to find someone with the right experience and competencies. It makes no business sense to release staff just because they cannot commit themselves to the regular working hours. It is more beneficial to the employers to make some changes to the work arrangements rather than to lose a contributing employee.’

Mr Goh added that companies now are concerned about building a reputation as an employer of choice and are seeing that having a good work-life balance among staff leads to higher productivity.

Still, Ms Majella Slevin, manager (secretarial and business support division) at recruitment firm Robert Walters, said that returning mums may face the challenge of handling new technologies and practices. She advised them to invest in skills upgrading before re-applying for a job.

But mothers such as Ms Monica Lum, 43, are undeterred.

‘I’m not the type to sit around doing nothing. I used to be in a fast-paced marketing job and I think I still can achieve something,’ she said, adding that she can return to the workforce because her two daughters, aged nine and 12, now have longer school hours.

‘I’m not thinking of getting a managerial position now, but I don’t want a rank-and-file job.

‘Given my experience, I think I can do better than that. I just want to look for a meaningful part-time job,’ she said.

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