How can Singapore’s policies change to reflect the concerns and needs of today’s women? In the following, we categorised the issues into three areas; employment, the family and gender role sharing, taking into consideration the challenges facing a society with aging population and low birth rate. The list of issues and major recommendations suggested in this paper were gathered by the women MPs from various Women Wing’s dialogue sessions and interactions with Singapore women from all walks of life. We thank the participants for their enthusiastic engagements to ensure more effective economic and social integration of women in Singapore.
WOMEN IN THE ECONOMY & EMPLOYMENT
It is noted that women have made tremendous progress in all fields, and is no doubt an integral part of the economy and employment in today’s Singapore. However, we noted two major issues in the area of women’s economic participation: (1) although attitudes and perceptions are changing, particularly among the young, women continue to carry a disproportionate level of informal care giving responsibilities, both in childcare and eldercare. As a consequence, some women are faced with the dilemma on continuing employment and opted to leave the workforce in response to these demands at home. (2) Whilst we have seen more women entering the corporate world and excelling in their work, women are under-represented by a significant proportion in board membership and leadership positions in the corporate sector. We believe that as Singapore faces constrained growth in labour, women’s potential contributions need to be recognized and valued. Hence advocacy to change mindsets and various enlighten HR practices should be implemented to enable women to contribute to its fullest alongside the men.
Keeping women in the workforce
To pilot more creative and innovative ways to promote work life integration so as to achieve a higher level of support for people with family responsibilities.
To encourage more companies to adopt flexible work options including home based work so as to enable working women to continue employment or the non-working women to re-enter into the workforce. This includes the design of guidelines to help employers with performance evaluation of their workers in home based work settings.
More incentives and efforts to leverage on the use of technology as an enabler to help attract and retain women at work (including home based work). Despite a highly connected society, telecommuting still constitutes a very small proportion in Singapore when compared to many developed countries.
2. Pathways for re-entering the workforce
Ensure a better match between women job seekers and the jobs available by providing an online portal with database of companies which have flexi work arrangements and home based jobs for women.
Provide an integrated programme to re-skill and place women PMETs in jobs as they face greater obstacles in re-entering the workforce after staying out of employment for a period of time.
3. Increase women’s representation at board level and higher leadership
Advocate for conscious decision in corporate world to ensure greater representation of women at board level. Women can provide diversity in perspectives which will help in making better decisions.
Advocate for greater effort in the development of women leaders in corporations.
Women’s Wing strongly supports the promotion of families as a key plank in our efforts to support individuals and build a cohesive society. In this regard, there is a need for the guiding principle of a child-centric approach in reviewing the adequacy of existing benefits for individuals and families. Such a child centric approach would help us identify and fill some of the policy gaps and prevent the perpetuation of a poverty cycle among low income families.
Addressing the housing and financial needs of diverse families
More help to meet the housing and financial needs of single women with children (whether due to divorce or other reasons).
5. Support for non-Singaporean mothers
Support Singaporean children whose mothers are non-Singapore citizen to gain greater employment opportunities or other benefits, such as healthcare and housing. This creates a more stable environment for the children.
6. Increase subsidies for childcare
Provide higher subsidies for parents requiring infant care services so that child care is made more accessible for mothers who want to return to work.
7. Support care of elderly parents
Advocate employers to provide family care leave for women who need to attend to urgent care of their frail elderly parents in the family.
8. Increase support for eldercare
Enhance subsidies for nursing home and day care services to help families cope with the high cost of care for elderly. Enhance support for caregivers who have to stay home to care for their frail parents. Raise the quality of elderly care centres and nursing home through closer supervision and better training of staff.
GENDER ROLE SHARING
Although there are no systemic obstacle to gender, gender stereotyping still exists, such as the social pressure for women to stay at home to care for the old and young, and attitudes that deter women from progressing in work. There need to be a change in mindset to recognize both men and women as equal partners in the workforce and family.
Encourage equal gender role sharing
More efforts are needed to do away with a paternalistic mindset, and to recognize both men and women as equal partners in life in all aspects. Policies should recognize and facilitate the involvement of men in families as husbands, fathers and sons, such as making paternity leave mandatory, allowing for spouse relief to be claimed equally by men opting to stay at home.
10. Encourage gender equality from young
Schools should prepare our young for a more equal partnership in their working and family life (e.g. sharing of household chores).
By Grace Fu.
The above is re-posted here from Ms Grace Fu's Facebook page with her permission. Ms Fu is the Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts & Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources. She is also the Member of Parliament for Yuhua Single-Member Constituency.