IF SINGAPORE can achieve better work-life balance, it could become a more gracious society and achieve better birth rates, women said at a post-National Day Rally forum yesterday.

So while issues like paternity leave and attitudes towards foreigners are important, many saw work-life balance as a key measure needed by the nation.

"It is one of the areas where we need a quantum leap, fresh ideas and fresh thinking," Madam Halimah Yacob, Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports, told reporters.

"We have been talking about it for years already, but we have not achieved a significant improvement. The Prime Minister... hits the nail on the head when he said the issue of people not getting married, or not having children, is very much linked to their inability to have work-life balance."

As for ideas to legislate paternity leave, she said that her sense was that it would be "above and beyond the 16 weeks of maternity leave".

The two issues have dominated forums and dialogues since PM Lee Hsien Loong spoke about them at the Rally.

At last night's forum for women, organised by the People's Association at the National Library, work-life balance was certainly the hottest topic.

Many of the 60 participants noted that stress and commitments at work and school were at the core of ungraciousness towards others, something that Mr Lee had also flagged.

"We are so busy meeting our key performance indicators as workers, we don't have time to spend with our families," said Nanyang Technological University assistant professor Debbie Goh. "And when you are unhappy and stressed, it is very hard to be gracious."

Ms Grace Fu, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, who was at the dialogue, said the Government would look at the entire package of work-life balance and parental leave.

She added that other issues concerning women, such as adoption and single motherhood, will also be looked at as the Government works on a White Paper on population.