Singapore has made huge leaps when it comes to gender equality, predominantly thanks to the Women's Charter. The Women's Charter was passed in 1961 to advocate girls and women's rights in Singapore, and promote equality in marriage. An event described as momentous in Singapore’s history because it significantly protected and advanced women's rights.
The Singapore Government has recently announced Singapore’s first ever review of women’s issues with a view of identifying and tackling persistent gender inequality.
Besides the announcement itself, the way the review was framed is extraordinary. Instead of focusing on short-term concerns, the review will look at “underlying, structural issues”, to ensure that gender equality becomes a fundamental value.
For a society where that principle is, unfortunately, not enshrined in its Constitution, this shift is all the more laudable.
A work in progress
To be fair, Singapore has made strides towards gender equality in recent years.
The labour-force participation rate of women here, for instance, has doubled to 61.1 per cent in 2019 from a mere 28 per cent in 1970.
The female employment rate has also improved steadily. Over the few years, it averaged 72 per cent, higher than the 69 per cent average in the previous three years. In terms of full-time employment, Singapore is ranked sixth, compared to 35 OECD countries.
Managing Gender Issues During A Crisis
As Singapore tackles the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic and an economic fallout that has the potential to leave long-term scars and deepen pre-existing inequalities, exposing vulnerabilities in social and economic systems which are in turn amplifying the impacts of the pandemic.
To this end, the government is committed to tackling some of the long-term and deep-rooted issues that have to date not been addressed.
Women in Singapore are on average paid 6 per cent less than men for performing the same kind of work. They are also concentrated in low-paying jobs that face significant disruption and many of these jobs are unlikely to return post pandemic, further exacerbating the gender pay gap.
Furthermore, society expects women to bear greater responsibilities at home, and in bringing up children and being carers to elderly family members. To this end, workplaces and employers can do their part by fostering a more supportive and flexible work arrangements.
Finally, women in Singapore put less aside for retirement – women on average have 11 per cent less than men in their CPF retirement accounts. With the changing nature of work, many workers face the risk of more unstable employment creating greater challenges to a secure and safe retirement.
Doing more to balance the scales
As society undergoes the biggest social, economic and political upheaval in generations the need to speed up progress on these issues so that we can see greater gender equality in our lifetime is critical – we need organisations that work for everybody, that account for the realities of how people live today and to embrace wholeheartedly the benefits of diversity and encourage more women in decision-making structures and in the C-suite.
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