Bandar Seri Begawan - All the ministers of East Asia have subscribed to the importance of achieving a work-family balance. From the various measures in the form of policies and programmes, which have been presented, all parties involved are addressing the issues seriously, ih the/ hope that family members can function in a supportive environment to deal with the' dual responsibilities of work and family. It is meanwhile hoped that the many lessons learnt from others can be considered and applied in the respective countries wherever appropriate.
This was stated by the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Hazair bin Hj Abdullah yesterday, at the press conference for the conclusion of the 5th East Asia Ministerial Forum on Families (EAMFF).
Various measures and best practices were shared over the past two days that represent the different approaches in dealing with issues under different prevailing circumstances, the minister said.
"For Brunei Darussalam as well as Singapore, the emphasis on family is also about efforts to promote population growth that is important for our small population," Pehin Dato Hj Hazair added.
Highly populated countries such as China and Indonesia - and to some extent the Philippines and Vietnam - have their set of priorities in tackling challenges such as urbanisation and migration.
"We also have more developed economies such as Korea and Australia that have put together strong measures to support families without having to undermine productivity and competitiveness," he said.
"For high growth economies like Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, dealing with the changes on family structure and their consequences are a must to ensure sustainability. I share that the various pro-family measures and initiatives to create family-friendly (environments) at the workplace is not at a cost but rather a necessary investment towards these objectives.
"There are also developing economies amongst us including Cambodia, Lao PDR and Timor Leste that are pretty much occupied with issues such as rural development, urban migration and poverty eradication.
"All in all, the many approaches we hear in the presentation might or might not be immediately pressing for us to adopt, but certainly we did learn a lot from the various insights in dealing with the similar challenges under different circumstances that might in the future become more relevant," said Pehin Dato Hj Hazair.
"Comparatively we are not far behind in terms of work-family balance. His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam recently announced a three-day holiday for Hari Raya, where such extended holidays will allow Muslims in the country more time to be with their families.
"At the same time, the extended holiday is also to increase opportunities for every family to be able to organise various activities together. We also have Family Day on the first Sunday of May every year.
"We need to strengthen the family institution for the sake of the community and the country Thus, the titah made by the monarch contributes towards strengthening the family institution," the minister added.
"In addition, to achieve our objectives on work family balance, all stakeholders, not just governments, must play their roles. Governments, within their means, can undertake measures in the form of fiscal support tax break or incentives; and legislations. Corporations as employers can be more supportive of employees who are juggling between work and family responsibilities.
"We have heard many examples in presentations in this regard such as family-friendly certification efforts to encourage policies and programmes that support families.
"But as I commented yesterday, to ensure all parties - employees and employers - mutually benefit from these measures, we need to continuously develop trust, understanding and maturity to prevent 'abuses' on such allowances and generosity of one party Only in that way, I believe, can we ensure the measures instituted would be politically and socially sustainable and effective.
"The hindrance towards the implementation of work-family balance is the absence of trust, understanding and maturity For instance, if the government introduces flexible hours, the employees must be responsible enough to strengthen the family institution and not abuse it."
The ministers and heads of delegation at the 5th East Asia Ministerial Forum on Families resolved to strengthen commitment in the implementation of policies and programmes on work family balance; and to incorporate family and gender perspective in the formulation of policies and programmes that foster the participation of all family members in the achievement of work family balance; as well as to introduce and develop policies and programmes that promote work-family balance such as flexible work policies, family-friendly workplaces, paid parental leave and availability of nursing facilities and child care centres.
The statement also empowers individuals to better balance work and family commitment through the provision of skills training such as time management, parenting, stress management, financial management and caring for members of the family.
--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin