Camino De Singapore: The Pitfall Of A Four-day Work Week

There are many things to be grateful for when we look at how far human societies have progressed. Over 130 years ago, Pope Leo XIII asked employers to shorten working hours because they were too long, especially for those involved in hard labour (Rerum novarum, 42). Today, nonprofit groups and researchers are experimenting with the four-day work week in the UK, and other places. In fact, a Straits Times editor published an opinion piece on how Singapore should go further and try for a three-day work week instead. How times have changed!

The central questions in the public discourse on a shorter work week are concerned with productivity and quality of life. The key idea is that less work days are probably good for the physical and mental health for the worker and employers also benefit because productivity will increase. Few people will dispute that shorter working days are probably better for the worker. The world is becoming more complex. Digital technologies are making communications more convenient, but also very rapid and transactional. Families are struggling to balance between family life and work life. The pandemic has made it hard for many to draw boundaries between times for work and for rest. Thus, the remaining question that will be decisive on whether to implement a shorter work week is the productivity issue.

Proponents of a shorter work week argue that employers should support this move because they would benefit from higher productivity. Let’s face it. How many of us actually really work continuously through every minute of our working hours? There are times when we are just chatting with colleagues or surfing the internet or checking our social media feeds. These are natural behaviours because it is difficult to focus all the time, and we cherish social interactions as social beings. The idea then is that if workers have a shorter working period, they can actually accomplish the same amount of work in less time because they have more incentives to be more focused at work. This could result in significant cost reduction. For example, not using electricity in the office for one extra day a week can add up to quite a lot.

However, it seems to me that conversations on productivity increase as a result of a shorter work week tend to be dominated by workers who live in an urban setting and work in the office. It is much harder to talk about productivity increase for manual labour workers. What happens when cleaners, waiters, and retail workers work shorter hours? Can their productivity increase? I cannot see how a shop can sell the same amount of things if they are open for only three days a week. And how about the factory? Many factories today run non-stop. While they are often highly automated, human workers are needed to stand by should an incident occurs. And it is certainly impossible for Grab drivers to give the same number of customers a ride in shorter time. So even if office workers do end up being more productive in a shorter work week, are we going to implement a shorter work week for non-office workers too? Will employers support the move to shorten work hours without cutting pay if the only justification is better well-being for the worker?

Fortunately, the UK study appears to take seriously the sectors where most workers are not performing white-collar jobs. We have to wait for the results of the experiment. Meanwhile, for those of us who work in the office, we need to empathise more with those of us who do not. This is even more so because non-office jobs often pay less and take place in settings where working conditions are poorer. We therefore need to be cognizant that productivity talk is less applicable to non-office jobs and cannot be the main basis for a move to cut the work week shorter.

The last thing we want is a shorter work week for office workers and the same long work week for non-office workers. This is already happening in retail and F&B sectors. Malaysia’s eateries are offering free iPhones to waiters because they could not hire enough workers as the pandemic subsides. If these workers could afford not to, why would they return to the workplace that made them work long hours before the pandemic and then retrenched them during the pandemic? Inequality is already rife as it is. We would not want to exacerbate it with a larger gap in working hours.

Inspired by the gospel, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council called for the removal of immense and growing inequalities more than half a century ago (Gaudium et spes, 66). That call remains relevant today. As Church, we must always and continually consider how we can answer that call. In the context of the conversation around a shorter work week, we can begin to answer that call by shifting the focus of the discourse from productivity to the dignity and wellbeing of the human worker.

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Erwin Susanto is a staff member of Caritas Singapore. He enjoys boring his friends with his interest in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible studies and finds it hard to resist commentating on all kinds of contemporary issues. He tries his best not to sound cheem.

Catholic Architectural Guild (CAG)

Catholic Architectural Guild (CAG) is a lay apostolate that consists of Catholics in the Architectural industry. Under the guidance of the Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore, the members’ vocation is rooted in the following objectives:

1) Promote the application of Catholic ethos in the work ethics of the architectural community;

2) Support members in finding their vocation in the architectural community by living their faith at work;

3) Promote the Catholic faith through the appreciation of Catholic church architecture;

4) Provide guidance to the Archdiocese in the development of their buildings;

5) Assist communities in need through our domain knowledge and charism.

Their hope is that through these objectives, we will be able to play a part in upholding the dignity of God’s creation and look forward to collaborating with like-minded groups and individuals towards the same goals.

Caritas Singapore assesses the needs of our charity member organisations to fund programmes that serve our brothers and sisters in need.

Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ACMI)

The Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants & Itinerant People (ACMI) looks after the pastoral needs of the migrants in Singapore with casework, breadbasket events at workers’ dormitories, befriender networks across all foreign communities, and by skills development and integration courses for foreign domestic workers and spouses, regardless of nationality, economic status, or religion.

ACMI’s mission is to be ambassadors of the Good Shepherd to all foreigners in our community, to form one family, one church; that those whom we serve will encounter and experience Christ. We do this through the following:

  • Counselling
  • Befriending through our network to build communities
  • Legal aid in collaboration with the Catholic Lawyers Guild and other volunteer lawyers on pro bono basis
  • Shelter in collaboration with Good Shepherd Centre
  • Financial aid where necessary
  • Educational, vocational and pastoral care training
  • Gifts of meals, provisions and social interaction via the Bread Basket program
  • Advocacy and Public Education

Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ACMI)

Agape Village
7A Lorong 8 Toa Payoh #04-01
Singapore 319264
Social Media:

Telephone: +65 6801 7400
Case Management: +65 9188 9162
Skills Development: +65 6801 7444
Email: [email protected]

Executive Director: Esther Chia

Caritas Singapore assesses the needs of our charity member organisations to fund programmes that serve our brothers and sisters in need.

Volunteer Trainers to run Skills Development Courses for Foreign Domestic Workers / Spouses

Organisation: ACMI
Location: Agape Village, 7A Lorong 8 Toa Payoh #03-02 Singapore 319264

ACMI is recruiting volunteer trainers for the following Skills Development courses for the migrants they serve.

  • Weekdays – Classes run once a week by Terms; 1 Term is 10 consecutive weeks. Volunteer required for a minimum of 2 Terms.
    • English (Everyday Practical, Beginner 1 OR Beginner 2) – Tuesday or Wednesday 10.30am to 12.30pm
    • Baking – Thursday 10.00 am to 12.00 pm
    • Cooking – Friday 1.30 pm to 3.30pm
  • Sundays – Classes run Grp A (1st & 3rd Sun) OR Grp B (2nd & 4th Sun); from 10.00am to 1.00pm or 1.30pm to 4.30pm. Volunteer required for a minimum of 2 Semesters; 1 Semester is 6 months.
    • English (Everyday Practical, Beginner 1 OR Beginner 2)
    • Computer (Basic & Word OR Excel & Powerpoint)
    • Smart Devices (Basic / Docs / Sheets / Slides)
    • Guitar
    • Baking
    • Cooking
    • *Web Design (Basic) – using WordPress
  • Sundays – Classes run once a month (for 5 months) from 10.00am to 4.00pm
    • Dressmaking (Basic & Advanced)
    • *Fashion Design (Basic)

– Relevant skills experience (e.g. cooking, baking, IT & Google app or language) and teaching experience.
– Independent, patient and willing to impact knowledge.
– Lesson plan will be provided except for those courses marked with *.
– Attend volunteer orientation & formation.
– Commitment of minimum 2 Terms (for Weekday Trainers) / 2 Semesters (for Sunday Trainers).

For enquiries/ more details:

Morning Star Community Services (MSCS)

Morning Star Community Services is a registered charity and Institution of Public Character (IPC) which aims to enrich and strengthen family relationships in Singapore. By empowering individuals and families, we strive to build vibrant communities that can make a difference to society. Founded in 1999 with our first centre in Lorong Low Koon, Morning Star Community Services have since expanded to six centres. Services include after-school care services and CareNights, a newly launched initiative which offers temporary caregiving as a respite for parents aspiring to upgrade or are facing difficulties. In a world where challenges to harmonious family relationships are increasing in intensity, Morning Star Community Services also provides upstream, preventive and early intervention programmes, family life education workshops and counselling services.


MSCS offers these services:

  • After-School Care Services
  • NOVA Learning Intervention Programme
  • Counselling Therapy
  • Programmes & Services – CareNights @ Morning Star
  • Trainings & Workshops

Morning Star Community Services (MSCS)

25 Lorong 33 Geylang, #04-01,
Pu Tian Building, Singapore 387985

Executive Director: Freddie Low
Telephone: +65 62851377
Fax: +65 62517763
Email: [email protected]

Caritas Singapore assesses the needs of our charity member organisations to fund programmes that serve our brothers and sisters in need.

Marymount Centre

Marymount Centre, which is the social service arm of the Good Shepherd Sisters in Singapore is set up to reach out to marginalized women and children.

Under Marymount Centre, there are three 24-hour residential homes for children, namely Ahuva Good Shepherd – Interim Placement and Assessment Centre, Ahuva Good Shepherd – Small Group Care, and Ahuva Good Shepherd – Children’s Home. Good Shepherd Student Care provides after-school care for students of Marymount Convent School, while Good Shepherd Centre is a 24-hour crisis shelter for abused women and their children.

9 Lorong 8 Toa Payoh,
Singapore 319253

Tel:               6256 4440
Fax:              6251 7763
Email:          [email protected]

Caritas Singapore assesses the needs of our charity member organisations to fund programmes that serve our brothers and sisters in need.

Mamre Oaks

Mamre Oaks’ vision and mission is to empower persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (namely the Special Persons or SPs) to lead lives of meaning, dignity and fulfilment through engaging activities at its day activity centre in Agape Village.

Founded by a group of friends who believe that persons with intellectual
disabilities, the weakest in any society, are gifts from God with their rights to a fulfilling life like anyone else.

Mamre Oaks aim to provide and create an environment where the SPs are welcomed, respected and valued regardless of their disabilities and differences. Being an integral part of the Catholic Church, Mamre Oaks will carry out its businesses according to the Church’s Catholic Social Teachings. Mamre Oaks is founded on Catholic soil and warmly welcomes all regardless of their race and religion.


  • Indoor/outdoor exercise programs that will encourage the Special Persons to remain physically active and fit. Sports related games and competitions will significantly empower the Special Persons.
  • Skilled-based activities through the use of art & craft, independence living, creative works, music and dance.
  • Building of social skills and self-confidence.
  • Specific workshops that address behavior issues, self-defense, sexuality, self-care and finances.
  • Engagement in work-related projects within the compound of Agape Village such as ushers, area cleaning and cafe serving and cleaning, horticulture activities.
  • Time for reflection and quiet meditation.
  • Contracted work projects where possible to help identify and facilitate open employment opportunities for the adults with special needs.
  • Activities to support for the caregivers.

Mamre Oaks Ltd
490 East Coast Road,
St. Patrick’s School, Brothers’ Residence
Singapore 429058


Centre Manager: Mr. Joseph Lim
Telephone:+65 6978 7800
Email: [email protected]

Caritas Singapore assesses the needs of our charity member organisations to fund programmes that serve our brothers and sisters in need.


HopeHouse provides residential programmes for youths at risk. Their vision is to be an Oasis of Hope, with the goal of giving youths hope for a new beginning. HopeHouse is open to male youths at risk, aged 16 and above, regardless of race and religion.

HopeHouse will develop Individualised Care Programmes for each resident which will include emotional development and educational development including life skills training. The programmes may also include group counselling and family involvement. Residents will also be exposed to community involvement projects to help them in their social integration and development.

Broadly the programmes will include:
– Individualised care
– Group Counselling
– Emotional Development
– Educational Development including Life Skills
– Community Service

For more information regarding their programmes and activities, visit their website.

490 East Coast Road,
Singapore 429058

Tel:                6348 1959
Email:            [email protected]

Caritas Singapore assesses the needs of our charity member organisations to fund programmes that serve our brothers and sisters in need.

Catholic Family Life (CFL)

Catholic Family Life’s (CFL) mission is to form, empower and restore individuals, married couples and families in every stage of life so all may flourish in the intimate love of God. Through their programmes and services, they will continue to promote the dignity of all individuals and families, and remind all of the true identity as Children of God, and to go forth and be visible signs of God’s love to the world. 

CFL’s main programmes/services are available to all, regardless of race, language and religion. They are: 

  • Marital and Family Therapy working with individuals, couples, and families  
  • Children & Adolescence Therapy Services  supporting parents and their children through stages and challenges in life
  • Pregnancy Crisis & Support – supporting women with unplanned pregnancies
  • Educational programmes for teens and parents
  • Joyful Parenting – workshops on do’s and don’ts during pregnancy, pre- and post-natal well-being, and a support hotline for early parenting and breastfeeding moms
  • Rachel’s Vineyard Singapore – weekend retreat programme for healing the pain of abortion 

CFL works closely with its affiliates and partners to promote family life and enhance family relationships. Collectively, and in support of each other, they help form, empower and restore individuals and families who can then develop into communities of life and love that guard, reveal and communicate the love of God.  These affiliates and partners include: 

  • Beginning Experience 
  • Choice 
  • Couple Empowerment Programme 
  • Couples for Christ 
  • Engaged Encounter 
  • Marriage Preparation Course 
  • Natural Family Planning 
  • Pieta 
  • Retrouvaille 
  • Worldwide Marriage Encounter 
  • Couple Mentor Journey 
  • Catholic Divorce Support Group

Catholic Family Life (CFL)
2 Highland Road #01-03
Singapore 549102

Telephone: 6488 0278
Email: [email protected] 

Caritas Singapore assesses the needs of our charity member organisations to fund programmes that serve our brothers and sisters in need.

Assisi Hospice

To be the leader and centre of excellence for compassionate and personalised palliative care.

The Assisi Hospice is a Catholic Charity providing compassionate, personalised and quality palliative care to adults and children with life limiting illnesses through our Inpatient, Home and Day Care services.

Our Services

Inpatient Care

Our Inpatient Care is available for patients who need specialist care and cannot be cared for at home. Our patient care focuses on managing their symptoms and pain so they can be as physically comfortable as possible. Our social workers and clinical pastoral care counsellors also offer a support system to help patients and their families to manage their psychosocial and spiritual needs.

Home Care

Our Home Care service provides a critical option for patients who prefer to be cared for at home. Our team of doctors, nurses, medical social workers and clinical pastoral care counsellors work together to support families in caring for the patient at home as long as they can, by helping them manage the symptoms of advanced illnesses. Our team is also contactable on the phone to address any urgent concern.

Day Care Centre

Our Day Care Centre provides a safe and supportive environment for patients who require care in the day while their family members are at work or school. Daily activities and therapeutic programme, such as art therapy and movement therapy, are organised by our staff and volunteers. These provide our patients social and recreational opportunities, and respite for their caregivers. Patients also take part in regular outings organised by Assisi Hospice volunteers or supporters.

The New Assisi Hospice

By end-2016, Assisi Hospice will move into a new purpose-built hospice, marking a new chapter in its history and a big leap in palliative care in Singapore. With 85 inpatient beds, an expanded Day Care Centre and enhanced Home Care capabilities, Assisi Hospice will serve more than two times the current number of patients every year. The 6-storey facility will also house a dementia-friendly ward and a Paediatric Care Ward, providing specialised care to patients with dementia and children with life-limiting illnesses.

The new patient-centric hospice will provide a comforting home-like environment that caters to the needs of patients and their families. There will be cosy communal spaces for patients and families to interact, green spaces for all to relax and private spaces for families to be on their own. Assisi Hospice will also make use of IT and technology for better patient care.



Assisi Hospice
832 Thomson Road
Singapore 574627

Telephone: 6832 2650

Email: [email protected]

Caritas Singapore assesses the needs of our charity member organisations to fund programmes that serve our brothers and sisters in need.