The Business Times: New fund to help Singapore’s marginalised groups land jobs
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The Business Times: New fund to help Singapore’s marginalised groups land jobs

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By Rachel Mui

The Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), which is a non-profit organisation, on Thursday said it has launched a new fund to raise the participation of marginalised groups in Singapore’s workforce.

Among other things, the Lift (Learning Initiatives for Employment) Community Impact Fund will support programmes that provide vocational training for marginalised individuals, and place them in jobs in the open market, CFS said.

These programmes are targeted at four marginalised groups – persons with disabilities, persons recovering from mental illnesses, disadvantaged women, as well as youths-at-risk – with a focus on helping them navigate and overcome barriers to securing sustained employment.

This will be done via equipping them with both hard and soft skills for obtaining jobs in the food and beverage industry, with the possibility of including more sectors in the future, CFS added.

Said Joyce Teo, deputy chief executive officer at CFS: “Marginalised groups have largely been excluded from the labour market because of various stereotypes, stigmas and prejudices. This often leads to economic and social vulnerability that follows them for life. We hope to pilot new pathways to help the vulnerable make a living, improve their self-esteem and become more involved in society.

“Lift meets this need in a holistic manner by concurrently providing participants with technical training, social support and job coaching to help them manage socio-emotional and financial stressors while they learn and work. Ultimately, the aim is to help them get and stay employed with the help of the community.”

The fund aims to support an initial 90 participants with a total of 12,600 hours of WSQ-certified (workforce skills qualifications) vocational training, as well as 5,400 hours of job matching, job placement and on-the-job coaching support.

This works out to an average of 140 hours of vocational training, and 60 hours of post-training support for each participant. During the training phase, participants will also receive social support from charity partners to minimise or resolve family and/or other issues that may otherwise derail their learning, CFS noted.

Potential participants will first be identified and referred by the Institute of a Public Character charities, and then assessed in terms of attitude, aptitude as well as potential for employment.

Successful candidates will then be trained by one of two social enterprises working alongside CFS as programme providers – Project Dignity will train participants for kitchen and service jobs, while Bettr Barista will train participants to be baristas.

Both companies will also provide job attachment opportunities during the training phase.

CFS aims for around 65 per cent of its participants to complete the training, and for about 60 per cent of graduates to be successfully placed into employment for at least three months. To track the efficacy of these initiatives, programme providers will also, where possible, keep in touch with participants for up to two years, CFS said.

While an anchor donor has been secured to seed the Lift Community Impact Fund, CFS is now looking to raise additional funds to cover the estimated S$528,000 required to support the programmes for these marginalised groups.

Potential donors who wish to contribute to Lift may visit, or write to CFS at for more information. Read more.

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The competition was organised by City Harvest Community Services Association and received support from FUN! Fund, a Community Impact Fund jointly established by the Community Foundation of Singapore and the Agency for Integrated Care, with the aim of addressing social isolation among the elderly.

Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of National Development Mr Tan Kiat How attended the event. He encouraged the elderly to stay physically and mentally well, as well as urging them to participate in community activities and enjoy their golden years together.

Learn more about FUN! Fund at


The programme provides the children with a non-threatening platform to connect with peers and have positive conversations. In addition, it exposes them to different people who can assist to broaden their perspectives.

L.S., a volunteer with the Reading Odyssey programme @ Spooner Road



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Three rising economic identities of women

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The world is far from being equal and fair for women, and the Covid-19 crisis has amplified this disparity.

As the global Covid-19 vaccine roll-out promises light at the end of the tunnel, the world is still accounting for the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on women and, consequently, the sacrifices they have made during this time – whether it is at work or at home.

Singapore recognises this and has declared 2021 as the Year of Celebrating SG Women. Meanwhile, this year’s theme for International Women’s Day on March 8 is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a Covid-19 world”.

How can we enshrine women’s economic value through permanent action, thus forging a new dawn for working women post-pandemic?

The world is far from being equal and fair for women, and the crisis has amplified this disparity. Women form 39 per cent of global employment but account for 54 per cent of overall job losses, according to McKinsey Global Institute. Covid-19 has also made women’s jobs 1.8 times more vulnerable than men’s jobs.

In a Deloitte Global survey that polled 400 working women across nine countries, nearly 82 per cent said they had been adversely impacted by the pandemic – largely due to shouldering more caregiving/homeschooling responsibilities. Of these, nearly 70 per cent were concerned about career progression.

Yet the fundamental human right of gender parity presents a critical economic opportunity. Righting the imbalance will help increase women’s economic participation and foster a more inclusive economy, which can drive sustainable development worldwide. This could mean adding US$13 trillion (S$17.3 trillion) to global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2030, according to McKinsey. But if nothing is done, global GDP growth could fall by US$1 trillion in 2030.

To counter this disparity and create an equal future for women, corporate and government policies must support women’s full economic participation. To do this, we should recognise three formidable identities of women: as worker, consumer and investor.

Women as workers

When schools in the United States resumed last September and instituted home- based learning, 80 per cent of the 1.1 million job-leavers were women. In December, women lost 156,000 jobs while men gained 16,000. To top it off, one in four women in the US is considering leaving the workplace due to challenges created by Covid-19, according to a joint report by McKinsey and

If issues are not addressed now, there would be fewer women leaders in the future.

Suffice it to say, there is still no equal pay for equal work. Singapore women still earned 6 per cent less than their male peers for doing the same work, according to a January 2020 report by Ministry of Manpower researchers Eileen Lin and Grace Gan and National University of Singapore economist Jessica Pan.

This is despite more women having higher educational attainment and increased workforce participation. Researchers attributed this difference to caregiving, a role that usually falls on women. Time taken off work leads to gaps in work experience, which affects career progression and earnings.

The gender pay gap was also due to women being more prevalent in sectors such as hospitality and healthcare having lower pay, compared with male-dominated occupations such as doctors and science, technology, engineering and mathematics professionals with typically higher pay.

Company and national policies should be designed to retain women workers. They should include tools for women to work remotely, retrain if necessary, maintain work- life balance as well as paid-leave policies that encompass childcare and eldercare.

In Singapore, a change in whole-of-nation/society mindset to share domestic responsibilities more equally is underway, with incentives for firms to adopt flexible work arrangements and increase paid paternity leave. This is significant, given the deep-rooted Asian mindset of gender stereotypes, and could pave the way for other Asian nations to follow.

Women as consumers

By 2030, 100 million more women will enter the global workforce, according to Frost & Sullivan’s Global Mega Trends to 2030.

This means that economic and financial power will shift significantly towards women. In fact, a Nielsen study showed that women are set to control 75 per cent of discretionary spending by 2028. Not only do they shop for themselves, they generally are in charge of household purchases. And if they like a brand, 85 per cent of women will remain loyal to it, Nielsen reported in 2018.

Yet media campaigns have been found lacking. In a 2018 study by Omnicom Media Group that surveyed 1,000 people, 39 per cent felt that advertising did not represent all genders accurately and 30 per cent said that brands misrepresented them and their gender.

Meanwhile, advertisements in Singapore were six times more likely to show women doing housework than men, and men were 32 per cent more likely to be featured in lead roles, according to a 2018-2020 study by Aware and marketing consultancy R3 of 200 television ads from Singapore’s top 100 advertisers.

Companies that pay heed to their messaging are duly rewarded. At Unilever, non-discriminatory advertising created 37 per cent more brand impact and a 28 per cent increase in purchase intent, a 2019 study by market researcher Kantar showed.

Upmarket exercise equipment company Peloton found this out the hard way. In November 2019, it released a 30-second video that showed a husband giving his wife a Peloton stationary bike. Critics slammed it for being sexist, tone-deaf and even dystopian. The backlash may have contributed to Peloton’s 15 per cent stock drop in three days, or about US$1.5 billion loss in market value. Peloton stood by its ad and insisted that the plunge was unrelated.

Companies that target the female audience should also track the percentage of women in managerial positions as well as on their boards. After all, companies with greater gender diversity were 25 per cent more likely to outperform their competition, McKinsey found in a 2020 report.

Women as investors

According to Boston Consulting Group, women are adding US$5 trillion per year to their assets globally and female-owned assets are likely to reach US$93 trillion by 2023. When making investment decisions, the study also found that while men mainly focused on an asset’s track record, women also considered environmental, social, and governance factors and preferred those that created positive impact as well.

Men were more willing to invest in speculative stocks that they believed would make money more quickly, but women preferred funds with a consistent record and diversified their investments, according to Warwick Business School’s 2018 study of 2,800 British men and women. The result of women’s more deliberative approach: Their returns were nearly 2 per cent higher than that of men’s, Warwick found.

As women accumulate more wealth, they are also challenging traditional notions of philanthropy. In the US, 93 per cent of high-net worth women gave money to charitable causes, compared with 87 per cent of men, according to the 2018 US Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy.

Whereas donations used to be attributed to their husbands or made anonymously, women are becoming more visible on the philanthropic scene as they carve their own identities as a philanthropist, as seen in the case of Mrs Melinda Gates and Ms Priscilla Chan.

Women are also more inclined to give collectively and this has led to a proliferation of giving circles, where donors pool and decide together the allocation of proceeds. They also prefer to give to causes supporting girls and women, which they feel is most effective in addressing other societal issues, the Trust Study found.

Pre-Covid-19, the World Economic Forum estimated it would take 257 years to close the gender gap. Even as the world continues to grapple with the crisis, it is even more paramount now to take a gender lens in socio-economic policies with women playing a pivotal role in the post-pandemic economic recovery.

Trina Liang-Lin is Singapore’s newly appointed representative to the Group of Twenty for Women’s Economic Representation. She is past president of UN Women Singapore and the Financial Women’s Association, past vice-president of the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations and past co-chair of BoardAgender.

Trina serves on the Board of the Community Foundation of Singapore since 1 September 2018.

Credit: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.

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Stories Of Impact

Championing inclusive employment for youths with special needs

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For more than 10 years, CFS donors have supported the Metta Welfare Association and its trailblazing Metta Café through the Work Readiness Programme, which equips youths with special needs with the vocational and soft skills they need for the workplace. CFS is commemorating 15 years of giving and this story is one of a three-part series that highlights the strong relationships CFS has fostered with charities over the years.

I am grateful to my trainers for guiding me along patiently. I’ve learnt many things here and I hope to become a baker one day.

Toh Ming Yi hopes to become a baker one day. The 26-year-old is an apprentice at Metta Café. Under the guidance of patient teachers, he is learning to make cookies, muffins and other baked goods. He is also picking up valuable and complementary life skills like managing money and communicating with customers, which will help him in the working world. 

Like the other Metta School graduates with mild intellectual disability and/or autism who work at this inclusive café, cheerful Ming Yi has the right support to help make his dreams come true.

Building a long and fulfilling relationship

Metta Café is part of Metta Welfare Association (MWA), a charity set up in 1992 which has uplifted countless lives of those with special needs. The Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) has had a long and valuable relationship with MWA since 2011. To date, CFS donors have generously contributed over $736,000 to MWA and have been a pillar of support for Metta Café’s Work Readiness Programme.  

CFS’ continued support has enabled us to continue empowering more individuals in need. Besides equipping our youths with life skills that will better facilitate their integration into society, we were also able to fund programmes that develop social and communication skills to increase their employment opportunities.

Felicia Wee, Deputy Executive Director

Creating employment opportunities through the Work Readiness Programme

The Work Readiness Programme provides apprenticeship opportunities, on-the-job training, job attachments, life-skills training, internship training and open employment to young adults with special needs to prepare them to contribute to the workforce. 

Initially offered solely to Metta School graduates, the programme has delivered such positive outcomes that students with special educational needs from other institutes such as the Institution of Higher Learning and the Institute of Technical Education also seek out internships at Metta Café. 

In 2020, the café became a WSQ In-house Approved Organisation to conduct the Food Safety Level 1 certification. This enables a wider range of participants to upgrade their skills, creating greater inclusiveness and opportunities for them in society. 

Metta Café’s Work Readiness Programme resonates with CFS as it is designed to improve employability, one of our key focal areas for grant making. We look for causes that empower marginalised job seekers to become contributing members of society. This can be through education, exposure to career pathways or advocating for more inclusivity.

CFS has been giving out grants to the programme since it began in 2016 and this enduring support has enabled Metta Café to increase its apprenticeship numbers.

“We value CFS as our long-term partner,” says Felicia Wee, Deputy Executive Director of MWA. “Their donors’ contributions to MWA have been significant. With their collective support, we have been able to help more youths with special needs maximise their potential.”

Encouraging long-term support through legacy giving

More recently, CFS and Metta have been working closely to encourage more legacy giving. Legacy gifts are planned future gifts such as bequests of assets or memorial funds, which offer a more sustainable and reliable source of fundraising for charities. It also opens up ways for donors to create an impact well beyond their lifetime.

With guidance from CFS, Metta has been actively engaging donors on its long-term plans and accepting all forms of legacy gifts including CPF and insurance nominations.

We are proud to maintain a long-term relationship with Metta and are committed to working with other like-minded charities to bring greater impact to youth with special needs under the CFS cause Improving Employability.

CFS is celebrating our anniversary throughout 2023—15 years of empowering donors to make a meaningful impact. Since our inception in 2008, we have received over S$292 million in donations in Singapore and disbursed over S$157 million in grants to over 400 charity partners.  

To discover how you can make a difference, please visit