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Work-life balance should be a personal choice

During Channel NewsAsia’s recent Ask the Prime Minister programme, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, when asked about work-life balance, said it was unclear if people knew the trade-offs involved.

During Channel NewsAsia’s recent Ask the Prime Minister programme, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, when asked about work-life balance, said it was unclear if people knew the trade-offs involved.

He added: “If you look at other countries, Vietnam, China, even in India, they’re not talking about work-life balance ... So, I think I’d better guard my lunch.”

Indeed, while there are many in these countries who do enjoy work-life balance, being in the higher echelons of the population, the majority of them are, as he said, “hungry, anxious, about to steal your lunch”.

Some of us, in our work, may have come across the project management triangle where among Fast, Good and Cheap, we can have only two of the three at a time, not all three: Fast + Cheap = Not Good; Fast + Good = Not Cheap; Good + Cheap = Not Fast.

Similarly, we must realise that, for an average citizen without passive income, less work and more time to relax would mean reduced incomes. What would happen if all Singaporeans, including high achievers, accept work-life balance? It would not augur well for Singapore as a whole.

Take the case of India, where Indians repelled foreign competition in their retail sector because they did not want improvements to efficiency that would increase the pace of work for small traders but reduce costs to consumers.

This tarnished investor confidence in India, and the rupee has fallen in recent months.

I thus feel that work-life balance is a personal choice. Let us not envy high achievers among us. Let them strive to maintain Singapore’s competitiveness and improve our economy. Let us also be prepared for monetary disincentives if we choose personally to slow down.

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