DPM Heng Swee Keat at the 2019 Best Workplaces Awards Ceremony

DPM Heng Swee Keat | 6 November 2019

Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat at the 2019 Best Workplaces Awards Ceremony on 6 November 2019.


Mrs Joni Ong
Managing Director, Great Place to Work Institute Singapore

Ms Evelyn Kwek
Managing Director, Great Place to Work Institute Singapore

Distinguished guests,  

Ladies and gentlemen,  

Thank you for inviting me to join you this evening at the 2019 Singapore Best Workplaces Awards Ceremony. 

Let me start by congratulating the Singapore Best Workplaces Award winners. As Joni said, everyone here is a winner. The fact that you are here means you are a winner. You have set the best workplace practices for other companies to aspire to and learn from.

We are also here to celebrate Great Place to Work Certified Companies from around Asia and Great Place to Learn Companies from Singapore. 

This gala dinner caps two days of events organised around the theme of ‘Beyond Diversity & Inclusion to Belonging’ 

Some of you had the opportunity to take part in the workplace immersion experience yesterday, and the forum discussions today.

I hope you had gained new insights and inspirations that you can apply to your workplace.  

Workplaces are Fairer and More Progressive Today

I would like to thank the Great Place to Work Singapore for this very good initiative, to recognise great workplaces, and promote positive workplace cultures and practices. 

Great Place to Work is a global organisation with a presence in more than 60 countries, and it has over 30 years of experience conducting research on workplace excellence, management, and workplace culture. 

Joni and Evelyn brought Great Place to Work to Singapore 5 years ago. Since then, they have collaborated with Singapore Management University to survey more than 900 companies with over 400,000 employees across the Asia-Pacific region. Their research has produced important insights into how to build great workplaces, such as the importance of psychological safety, inclusion and the sense of belonging that help to foster teamwork.

Their research tells us that workers’ expectations of the workplace and their jobs have changed, and, are changing.

Workers want to trust their leaders, take pride in their work, and enjoy the camaraderie with their colleagues. 

Workers want to work in a place where they belong. 

Over the years, employers have also come to realise that to improve productivity and attract and retain talent, we need workplace cultures that recognise gender equality, support lifelong learning, facilitate multiple career tracks, and promote good work-life harmony. 

We need to have fair reward systems, so that workers, regardless of gender, race, religion or age, are encouraged to join the workforce.

Our workplace profile is changing – our workers are keen to work for longer, upskilling themselves and contributing their invaluable experience. They work alongside and mentor younger colleagues, who bring different perspectives and skills. Increasingly, we are seeing more multi-generational workplaces. 

We also need workplaces that provide flexible work arrangements, so that workers can pursue their aspirations at the workplace, while having support to start a family, take care of their parents, or have other pursuits. 

This requires employers to have a progressive mindset. 

I am glad that many workplaces in Singapore have taken steps to become more progressive, and indeed, like many more places around the world. Because employers recognise that progressive workplaces are actually more productive. 

They tend to have more engaged employees and more innovative teams that are better at solving problems and creating value. 

The Government is redoubling our efforts to promote fair and progressive employment practices.

We set up the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) in 2016, to help employers build workplaces where employees are respected, valued, and able to achieve their fullest potential for the success of the organisation.

TAFEP has worked with many employers and encouraged them to adopt Tripartite Standards for fair and progressive employment practices. Such as flexible work arrangements and merit-based recruitment.

I am happy to share that we have made good progress.

So far, close to 2,800 employers, including public sector agencies, covering about 680,000 employees, have adopted at least one Tripartite Standard. 

This is a good development, and I encourage more firms to come on board.

Today, let me talkabout three characteristics of great workplaces, which we should focus on going forward – characteristics that our award winners exemplify:

First, the best workplaces are those that ensure that both men and women feel that they are respected, valued and recognised. 

Second, the best workplaces put in effort to redesign workplaces and jobs that not only welcome workers of all ages, but also tap on their experience and expertise. 

Third, the best workplaces embrace work-life harmony by putting in place practices and work cultures that enable workers to work on a schedule that better fulfils their needs and aspirations. 

Let me elaborate.

Women are a Critical Component of our Workforce

Women play a critical role in our workforce. They comprise half of our population, and therefore half of our workforce’s talent and potential.

Our female full-time employment rate puts us in the top ten if we compare with OECD countries.

Our gender pay gap has narrowed over time. In some occupations – such as accountants – the median incomes of women are higher than men.

But there is still room for improvement.

Companies where women can fully apply their talents are stronger and more dynamic.

A McKinsey & Company study last year found that greater gender diversity among executives correlated with better financial performance

We need fair and progressive workplaces to create an environment where all workers can achieve their fullest potential, regardless of gender.

Our award winners tonight exemplify many best practices in tapping on the talents and skills of both men and women. Let me share some examples of progressive practices among our award winners, which I hope more companies will emulate.

Aviva, for example, is committed to the progression and retention of talented women. Aviva actively encourages hiring managers to consider mothers seeking to return to work. 

Aviva also offers 16 weeks of paid parental leave for both mothers and fathers. This benefits 41% of its employee population who are working parents.1 I understand that this initiative has been very well-received, and also supports caregiving by both parents.

Grab is another example of a company that puts in effort to improve gender equality in the workplace. They have set up a group called Women@Grab – made up of men and women at Grab who champion initiatives for women, such as mentoring by senior leaders.

I encourage more companies to follow the lead of Aviva and Grab, and make workplaces better and more equal places for men and women.   

We Need to Build on the Strengths of Our Older Workers

We must also enable workers of all ages to reach their fullest potential.

Workers aged 55 and above make up 24% of our resident labour force. And this proportion will continue to grow over time. 

Earlier this year, we announced that we would raise the Retirement Age to 65 and the Re-employment Age to 70 by 2030.

Many older workers welcome this move, because it enables them to work longer if they wish to.

And employers should take the opportunity to redesign their workplaces and jobs to encourage older workers to work with them. Because older workers have much to offer.

They have years of experience and deep expertise, making them valuable mentors to the younger workers. We can continue to do more to support productive longevity for seniors, including helping older workers to upgrade their skills in order to take on new roles.

For example, DHL Express, another Award winner, invests heavily in skills upgrading through their Certified International Specialists training programme. Many of their senior workers above the age of 50 have gone through the 12-15 month programme, which includes a mix of classroom and on-the-job learning.

Companies such as Royal Plaza have also adopted the SkillsFuture for Digital Workplace training programme to equip older workers with digital skills. Many older workers who attended the training programme shared that they are now less fearful of digital technologies.

These are very good examples which I hope more companies will learn from. We must support our older workers who wish to stay meaningfully employed and actively engaged in workplaces, especially with more rapid changes in technology and skills requirements.

Work-Life Harmony

The third characteristic of great workplaces is work-life harmony. This is something close to everyone’s heart.

The needs and expectations for work-life harmony have changed over the generations.

In fact, they also change for individuals as they move through different stages in life.

Increasingly, workers want work arrangements and progressive work culture that will allow them to fulfil their family commitments and personal aspirations.

One area that people feel strongly about is Flexible Work Arrangements.

Flexible Work Arrangements allow workers to better integrate their work responsibilities with their personal and family aspirations.

Based on an MOM survey, the availability of Flexible Work Arrangements was the top non-wage factor that affected staff retention.2

I am glad to know that many of our award winners offer flexible work arrangements, and some companies even go above and beyond to support working parents.

I hope that many more companies will come on board to offer such arrangements and make work-life harmony a reality for all workers.

We are currently running a Citizens’ Panel on Work-Life Harmony, and inviting our people to come together to discuss how work-life harmony can be improved and come up with recommendations

I am very encouraged by the enthusiastic participation.

The Panel will submit their recommendations later this week and I look forward to reading them.


We have come a long way in implementing fair and progressive work practices to create good workplaces for our workforce.

Let me once again congratulate all Award winners. I hope these examples of exemplary employers inspire other companies to strive to create the best possible workplaces for employees.

Thank you, and have a great evening. 


[1] Aviva provides 16 Weeks of Parental Leave for both mothers and fathers. Paid Parental Leave applies to both mothers and fathers, across all nationalities, and includes adoption. This is in addition to other existing leave arrangements, such as Shared Parental Leave (6 days), Childcare Leave (6 days), Extended Childcare Leave (2 days) and New Infant Care Leave (6 days unpaid).

[2] Source: Report on Conditions of Employment Survey 2018, Manpower Research & Statistics Department, MOM.