Just like men, women in Singapore work to help put food on the table and shell out money to contribute to household expenses. But these women, unlike men, are not always paid the same amount of money even if they are doing the same type of jobs.
It may be a far cry from countries like Afghanistan, where women are bluntly told to “stay in the kitchen” but the disparity is still there.
In Afghanistan in an assembly, known as a loyal jirga, President Ashraf Ghani was debating Afghanistan’s path to peace. Organisers said that around 30% of the 3,200 delegates were women.
On the second day of the assembly, a female delegate rose to speak but was ordered to be quiet by a male delegate. Behnoh Benod, 31, a male delegate who witnessed the incident related how another male participant told the woman delegate: “Peace has nothing to do with you. Sit down, you should be in the kitchen cooking!’”
Former US President Barrack Obama once commented, “Those days when the average family was a dad who went to work every day and a mom who stayed at home and did all the unpaid labour — that’s not what our economy looks like anymore.”
The former president is quite right, economies are no longer configured as they were before, yet, women are still treated the same way.
Gender wage gaps in Singapore
A 2016 study initiated by consumer research firm ValuePenguin showed that the median gross monthly income of men was S$3,991, higher than the S$3,382 for women.
The following year, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report revealed that Singapore was ranked sixth among 18 countries within the East Asia and Pacific region – behind countries such as New Zealand, the Philippines and Australia.
In 2018, the wage gap between men and women in Singapore increased to its widest in a decade. This was the analysis shown by the Manpower Ministry’s labour statistics.
The median wage for women working full-time was 87.5% of that for men, widening from 90.8 per cent in 2017, according to consumer research firm ValueChampion.
In a statement, Victoria Bethlehem, Head of Human Resources Asia-Pacific at human resource company Adecco Group, said that Singapore is doing relatively well in the region, but still has some way to go at the global level.
“While progress has also been made in several areas, the pace of change is slow and challenges still exist in terms of estimated earned income gap, higher proportion of women in caregiving and lower-paid work and a lower representation of women in leadership and political positions,” Bethlehem added.
On a similar tone, McKinsey’s managing partner for South-east Asia Oliver Tonby noted and said, “Singapore has made significant strides in support of women’s equality in recent years, from raising girls’ educational attainment to policies that help women to balance their family and work commitments….. However, barriers remain to women working, working full-time, and working in sectors where they can earn higher pay and improve their economic prospects.”
There is a strong need then to make sure that workplaces are more inclusive, and parenting or care giving must be more of a shared responsibility within the family than just a duty to be fulfilled by the mother alone. This would give women more opportunities to enjoy having both a career and a more meaningful motherhood experience.
Why gender discrimination is an ‘immortal’ issue in Singapore
In 2017, a United Nations (UN) committee called for Singapore to legislate a definition and prohibition of all forms of discrimination against women.
The appeal was first registered in 2011, during the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw). In that year, the Cedaw committee noted that Singapore’s Constitution forbids discrimination only on grounds of “religion, race, descent or place of birth”.
The suggestions from the committee included purging the “head of household” idea in all policy- and decision-making in order to encourage equal sharing of family responsibilities, provide domestic workers the same labour protection as other workers, elimination of marital immunity for rape, and tackling gender stereotypes and rape, among others.
Other reasons why the practice continues until today also include the lack of data on violence against women, and under-reporting of such cases due to stigma and “lack of understanding of gender-based violence among the population at large, as well as among law enforcement officials.” -/TISG