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Four critical gaps in improving employability for all
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Opinion

Four critical gaps in improving employability for all

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John Doe
Four people in green shirts working on soil in a gardening project.

A person in a wheelchair with much to give. A stay-at-home mum who misses working. An ex-offender who yearns for a second chance. A senior forced to retire early. These are some examples of people who want to work. They believe they can contribute to society. They also deserve the basic right to work and should not be denied from doing so.

Yet, many of them face difficulties in securing decent jobs. In recent years, the gig economy opened up opportunities for individuals facing barriers to traditional employment or those who need flexibility. However, gig work comes with its own set of challenges, such as unstable income and a lack of employment benefits.

Through our years on the ground partnering with local charities, social service agencies and research organisations, we at CFS have identified four groups – ex-inmates, persons with disabilities (PWDs), seniors, and women – that face challenges in securing gainful employment due to bias, unfair practices, or lack of accessibility. This, in turn, can lock them and their families in a vicious cycle of hardship. 

Employment needs to become more inclusive and provide fair opportunities to everyone. In Singapore, workplace anti-discrimination guidelines are being enshrined into law, but there is still more work to be done. This is where philanthropy can make a significant difference. At CFS, we connect donors with charities and programmes that uplift the employability of marginalised people.

We work with charities that build awareness of individual and structural barriers in the workplace and advocate for change. They are also empowering disenfranchised job seekers by providing skills training, job matching, mentoring and more. Read on to learn about the realities faced by disadvantaged people and how you can help.

Building Disability-Inclusive Workplaces 

About 15 per cent of the global population, or over one billion individuals, have a disability. This makes persons with disabilities (PWDs) one of the world’s biggest minority groups (World Bank, 2023). In Singapore, only 30 per cent of PWDs of working age are employed. The government hopes to raise this figure to 40 per cent by 2030 (The Straits Times, 17 August 2022). Barriers include the prevailing bias that disabled people are less productive and troublesome to accommodate in the workplace.  

Organisations like the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) and SG Enable, an agency for disability, are striving to change attitudes and help employers create disability-friendly workplaces. Companies are also encouraged to open up work-from-home opportunities to those who are less mobile. Hiring more PWDs and giving them meaningful careers will translate to overall gains in labour force productivity for Singapore going forward.  

Attracting Female Talent to Close the Gender Gap 

Better education and changes in attitudes towards gender-based roles have paved the way for more women to have careers. Between 2012 and 2021, Singapore’s female labour force participation grew from 57.7 per cent to 64.2 per cent. However, it still remains lower than men’s at 77.2 per cent (Statista). 

The gender gap emerges when women enter their 30s. This is typically the age when they assume more care responsibilities (Ministry of Manpower, 2022). Women continue to bear the brunt of caregiving and domestic responsibilities while juggling work. The gap, unfortunately, widens over time. Taking time off work can complicate re-entry into the workplace, creating knock-on effects throughout a women’s career. 

Yet, there is a clear business imperative to leveraging female talent. Gender diversity benefits companies as women often contribute different skills and perspectives, boosting growth, innovation, and productivity (International Monetary Fund, 2018).

While a growing number of organisations are waking up to this, there is much more room for female-friendly recruitment and retention practices. This includes flexible working arrangements, opportunities for progression and leadership, and help for mothers returning to work.

Reintegrating Ex-offenders into the Economy  

Ex-offenders are among the most marginalised and stigmatised people in our community. They face unique challenges in finding and sustaining gainful employment. Just 53 per cent of ex-offenders found jobs three months after their release – a figure that has stayed stagnant between 2017 and 2019 (Ministry of Home Affairs, 2020).

One reason is that ex-offenders who spend long periods in jail may not have the skills that are in demand, such as digital expertise. Moreover, with their limited social networks, they tend to be disconnected from market trends, knowledge of training opportunities and subsidies. That instantly puts them on a weaker footing.

Progress has been made through the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Employment Preparation Scheme, which allows ex-offenders to attend training and educational activities outside of prison during their sentences. But more can be done to help ex-offenders avoid a vicious circle. Without good jobs and long-term employment prospects, it will be harder for ex-offenders to rebuild their lives, placing them at a high risk of reoffending. 

Addressing Age-Based Employment Discrimination  

Three in four workers in Singapore do not intend to retire before 65 (The Straits Times, 3 July 2022). For many older people, working provides income and purpose and bolsters their physical and mental well-being.

Despite this, age was cited as the top reason for prejudice towards older jobseekers in a Ministry of Manpower survey (Today, 23 March 2022). Older people are stereotyped as “slow” and “less trainable”. Some may be less educated, putting them at risk of being displaced by technology. Employers may prefer to train younger employees, who are seen as having more room to grow.

The issue is especially pressing as Singapore is fast becoming a super-aged society. While upcoming anti-discrimination laws will help, companies should also take the lead and build a multigenerational workforce. Older workers bring experience and a diversity of views to the table, which will be a source of strength.  

How You Can Help

With your generosity, you could help fund programmes that improve the employability of disadvantaged Singaporeans struggling to find work. As a cause-neutral philanthropic advisor, CFS is well-placed to help you navigate the various programmes available and tailor a giving plan based on your goals and interests. 

Efforts to address barriers to employment fall into three broad areas:

  • Development of skillsets (educational, technical/vocational training, and soft skills development) 
  • Exposure to career pathways (employer engagement and career support) 
  • Encouraging sustainable careers (getting supervisors and colleagues to accommodate marginalised individuals)

The simplest and most cost-effective way to help fund different programmes that tackle employability is by setting up a donor-advised fund (DAF). An individual, a beneficiary of a will, a trust, or a family office can set up a DAF. CFS will handle all fund administration and leverage our experience and network to ensure your giving is targeted, accountable and impactful.  

As a donor, you will save on legal expenses and enjoy upfront tax deductions at the prevailing rate on eligible donations. Donors will also receive regular statements tracking incoming donations to their DAF and outgoing disbursements to charities. CFS has an established track record when it comes to setting up DAFs. CFS is the first to bring in DAFs into Singapore and is currently the largest provider with over 220 DAFs and Community Impact Funds.  

If you would like to begin your giving journey with CFS, do get in touch with us.

References

International Monetary Fund. (28 November 2018). Economic Gains from Gender Inclusion: Even Greater than You Thoughthttps://www.imf.org/en/Blogs/Articles/2018/11/28/blog-economic-gains-from-gender-inclusion-even-greater-than-you-thought

Ministry of Home Affairs. (14 October 2020). Written Reply to Parliamentary Question on the Employment Rate of Ex-offenders, by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law. https://www.mha.gov.sg/mediaroom/parliamentary/written-reply-to-parliamentary-question-on-the-employment-rate-of-ex-offenders-by-mr-k-shanmugam-minister-for-home-affairs-and-minister-for-law/ 

Ministry of Manpower. (1 December 2022). Summary Table: Labour Force. https://stats.mom.gov.sg/Pages/Labour-Force-Summary-Table.aspx 

Statista. Labor force participation rate of women in Singapore from 2012 to 2021. https://www.statista.com/statistics/951113/singapore-female-labor-force-participation-rate/

The Straits Times. (17 August 2022). Singapore aims to have 40% of working-age persons with disabilities employed by 2030. https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/singapore-aims-to-have-40-per-cent-of-working-age-persons-with-disabilities-employed-by-2030

The Straits Times. (3 July 2022). 3 in 4 older workers don’t intend to retire before 65; reasons include staying active, having purpose. https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/jobs/3-in-4-older-workers-dont-intend-to-retire-before-65-reasons-include-staying-active-having-purpose 

Today. (23 March 2022). Discrimination against workers and jobseekers declined, but ageism still prevalent: MOM survey. https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/discrimination-workers-jobseekers-declined-ageism-prevalent-mom-survey-1851551

World Bank. (3 April 2023). Disability Inclusion.
https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/disability#:~:text=Persons%20with%20disabilities%2C%20on%20average,outcomes%20than%20persons%20without%20disabilities.&text=Results-,One%20billion%20people%2C%20or%2015%25%20of%20the%20world’s%20population%2C,is%20higher%20for%20developing%20countries.

 

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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 https://www.cf.org.sg/fun-fund/.

 

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

中心“常胜将军”胡锦盛:比赛限时反应要快

现年92岁的胡锦盛是最年长的参赛者。自2017年退休后,他几乎每天都到活跃乐龄中心报到,从此爱上了玩拉密,每次可玩上三个小时,在中心是“常胜将军”。

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Opinion

Three donor trends shaping giving in 2020 and beyond

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John Doe
An Asian woman (Catherine) gracefully seated on a vibrant red and black couch, exuding elegance and poise.

Widening social inequality, an ageing population, and climate change – these are the issues that frame our world, as Singapore celebrates its bicentennial year in 2019. Yet alongside these social challenges, we’re also reminded of our long history of philanthropy in tackling local community needs. Take for instance, the recent 200 Years of Philanthropy in Singapore at the Temasek Shophouse, where it was heartening to see philanthropy being celebrated as a vital thread in Singapore’s success story.

But how will local donors continue to contribute to Singapore’s future? With the number of high-net-worth individuals here expected to grow by 22% to 250,000 by 2023, philanthropy is at an inflection point. We’ve already seeing broader shifts in our donor landscape: donors are getting younger; more Singaporeans are becoming socially aware, and technology is empowering new modes of giving.

At CFS, we count it as our privilege to be able to observe and nurture a new generation of donors increasingly empowered to drive social change. In this final edition of Change Matters for 2019, we highlight three donor trends we believe will continue to shape giving in 2020 and beyond:

Giving together is gaining traction

As more people recognise the complexity of social issues and the need for many helping hands, giving together is fast gaining traction. Donors are beginning to understand that collaboration enables them to create an impact larger than what they can achieve as individuals. In this edition, be the first to read about the Mind the Gap 200 fund or MtG200. This exciting ground-up initiative is the first collective of 10 donor advised funds formed by private individuals, which seeks to address social gaps in multiple sectors in Singapore.

More women are getting engaged in philanthropy

In 2009, only 14% of CFS’s donor funds were started by female donors. This percentage has risen by more than four times to 65% in 2017 and 2018. As more women become empowered to give, they will continue to give to causes close to their hearts. In this issue, we’re delighted to highlight the work of the International Women’s Forum Singapore (IWF)With CFS’s facilitation, IWF supports young women from financially-challenged backgrounds through their tertiary education through an education grant and a mentorship programme.

Donors are asking more questions for deeper understanding

Finally, donors are becoming more interested in understanding the root causes of issues to better inform their giving. They are more willing to explore opportunities to gain deeper insights from service providers, or contribute their expertise to co-create solutions. In this issue, read about our three Seniors Colabs learning journeys (Cornerstone Community Services (with Empower Ageing)Wellness Kampong and St Theresa’s Home), where participants discussed and exchanged views on how society can help our seniors age well.

Catherine Loh

CEO, Community Foundation of Singapore

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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 https://www.cf.org.sg/fun-fund/.

 

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

中心“常胜将军”胡锦盛:比赛限时反应要快

现年92岁的胡锦盛是最年长的参赛者。自2017年退休后,他几乎每天都到活跃乐龄中心报到,从此爱上了玩拉密,每次可玩上三个小时,在中心是“常胜将军”。

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News

The Straits Times: Teen violinist with an astonishing maturity

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John Doe
a picture of a girl playing a violin

by Chang Tou Liang, 29 October 2016

“Fifty years ago, the classical music scene in Singapore was spearheaded by Goh Soon Tioe (1911-1982), violinist, pedagogue, conductor and all-round music entrepreneur.

His name lives on in the award created in his memory, given to exceptional young Singaporean string players and administered by his daughters Vivien and Sylvia, and the Community Foundation of Singapore.

The recipient of this year’s Goh Soon Tioe Centenary Award is teenager Mathea Goh Xinyi, a student of former child prodigy Lee Huei Min, whose 75-minute solo recital distinguished her as a major talent to watch in years to come. There was nothing student-like in her playing, only an astonishing maturity that has to be experienced to be believed.” Read more

Photos: Adrian Tee of Pixelmusica

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Opinion

Making collaboration a reality

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John Doe
a person holding a mic speaking

Collaboration for social change has been a hot topic of late. Collaboration’s appeal is apparent in a world beset by complex and evolving social issues — alone we can only do so much, but work together, and look at the change we can achieve.

In the same vein, Colabs, a philanthropic initiative by the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) and National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), drives collaboration by bringing together the public, private and social sectors to tackle complex social issues. In particular, Colabs aims to empower givers to discover the roles they can play alongside existing efforts by government and non-profits.

Colabs currently focuses on three groups: disadvantaged children and youth, persons with disabilities and seniors.

Our first group kicked off by taking a look at the issues facing disadvantaged young people. We were thrilled that a total of 115 individuals and 62 organisations came to share and learn. We discussed existing support for disadvantaged young persons, our present-day challenges, while opening up future opportunities to work together.

If collaboration is to move from a mere aspiration to a reality, we encourage everyone to seriously consider these factors.

Fostering trust
It is often said change moves at the speed of trust. Collaboration requires recognition of each others’ strengths, and a shift away from a competitive mindset. Establishing a clear and common agenda and openly communicating in a safe environment are essential elements in any collaborative effort.

Trust is the key to understanding each other, exchanging ideas and expertise and talking about challenges. On this foundation, we can build a body of knowledge and a culture of transparency for effective collaboration and outcomes we want to achieve.

A shared journey of equals
In the face of complex issues, it’s easy to think the solution lies with someone else. When we enter a collaboration, we need to believe change begins with us. If trust is the glue that keeps collaborative efforts together, then shared ownership and responsibility is the compass that guides our intentions.

To act in the best interests of people affected by social issues, we have to embark on a journey of equals, recognising every party brings unique assets and voices to the table. When the going gets tough — and it will — all parties in the collaboration must be committed to dedicating the resources necessary to deliver change.

Innovation is not new
Change often requires innovation, which isn’t necessarily about inventing something new, but about looking for better ways to do things. Collaboration offers us a diversity of knowledge and expertise to generate new insights and explore improved or more sustainable solutions.

At CFS, we count it a privilege to be able to facilitate the meeting of like-minded people who want to live and give meaningfully. The successes of enabling hope, realising aspirations and rebuilding lives with dignity in our communities are a result of many collaborations and partnerships between our donors and charities.

We are grateful to all our partners for adding to the richness of this journey through your presence, perspective, and perseverance in building a stronger community. The journey has just begun; the best is yet to be.

Joyce Teo
Deputy CEO
Community Foundation of Singapore

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Stories Of Impact

Life after winning the 2020 Goh Soon Tioe Centenary Award: Natalie Koh’s pursuit of a career in musical excellence

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John Doe
a woman playing a violin

Winning the Goh Soon Tioe Centenary Award in 2020 was a pleasant surprise for talented violinist Natalie Koh, who was not usually recognised for her solo performances and had to prepare for the Award’s audition just after last year’s circuit breaker without any formal instruction.

“I am deeply honoured to have received the Goh Soon Tioe Centenary Award in 2020. Violin playing has always been something that I am very passionate about, although my growth and achievements have not always been a given,” says Natalie. 

“A lot of conscientious and diligent work was put into moulding myself into the musician that I am currently and that I am proud to be.”

Since then, the budding musician has kept herself busy and forged determinedly ahead in her musical career. These included performing in digital concert recordings, teaching the violin at Forte Musicademy as a private violin teacher, and engaging with the special needs community through various community art activities.

Apart from keeping a hectic schedule as a performer, Natalie also spends much time imparting her love of music to the next generation of budding musicians — serving as a Teaching Assistant in her Alma Mater, the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, and as an Assistant Director for classical music concert recordings and productions by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, alongside other local organisations.

The promising young musician was also able to present her solo recital at the Awards, for which she was extremely excited and thankful for, as her graduation recital was put off last year due to the pandemic’s restrictions. “Overall, I would say that my recital was a success, and I hope that I fared well as a representative on behalf of the Award and the music community,” Natalie recalls with pride.

The Award’s prize money has enabled Natalie to realise her dreams of going overseas to attain a Master’s in Violin Performance, which will broaden her horizons as a performing violinist, music educator and community artist. She hopes to take the experience and knowledge gained from the two years abroad and expand her musical practice upon her return to Singapore.

Natalie recognises that living and studying in Chicago will prove to be expensive, but with the $10,000 award money, she will be able to defray some of her living costs. With the reduced financial burden, the young musician will be able to focus on learning to the fullest of her abilities in the States.

The Goh Soon Tioe Award has supported yet another promising young musician in paving her way to a brighter future towards a career in music, and adding another valuable gem to the flourishing music scene in Singapore.

“I am deeply thankful for the recognition and the support from the Goh Soon Tioe Centenary Award and the Community Foundation of Singapore. This Award has raised my profile as an emerging musician in Singapore, and I sincerely hope that I can be one to shape and grow the classical music scene in Singapore,” says Natalie.

Read and learn more about Natalie’s first steps into music and how she grew to become the talented musician that she is here.

If you would like to contribute towards the arts or support causes that you are passionate about, please visit our website at https://www.cf.org.sg/

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