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Are women paid less in Singapore?

According to consumer research firm-ValueChampion, the median wage for women working full-time was 87.5 per cent of that for men, widening from 90.8 per cent in 2017

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SINGAPORE — An analysis of the Manpower Ministry’s labour statistics report showed that the wage gap between men and women in Singapore is at its widest in 2018.

While the research firm did not take into account the job title, education level or work experience, it is “still relevant” as it allows us to understand the average pay of men and women in Singapore.

The firm added that it “did not survey individuals or companies and therefore was unable to assess whether or not women are being paid less for specific jobs that they are equally educated and qualified to perform”.

Despite being so, results show that the health and social services industry had the widest gap, where the median wage for women was 62 per cent of that for men.

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Other industries where the median wage for women was lower than 80 per cent of men’s include manufacturing, information and communications, and accommodation and food services.

In today’s civilised society where social norms have increasingly been debunked, it comes as a surprise that occupational differences are a reason for the difference in wage gap, where perception of traditional roles highly prevails, such as women being more likely than men to work in service, education and care-related roles.In fact, 91 per cent of personal care workers are female.

On the other hand, men are still much more likely to work in engineering and technical roles, which yield higher wages. Only 26 per cent of engineering professionals are female.

Besides occupational differences, differences in work hours can also account for the gender wage difference. On average, women in Singapore work 44.5 hours weekly, which is 2.3 fewer hours than men.

Today, the gender wage gap has become a popular issue arising in many countries such as USA, Korea, Japan, Latvia et cetera. Yet, Singapore is not one of the top 10 countries with the highest gender wage gap in 2018.

Korea topped the chart at 34.6% while Japan came in third at 24.5%.

In Singapore, while the Constitution enforces equality in each person, it does not endorse nor support gender equality. There is also no legislation prohibiting sex-based wage discrimination, meaning that employers are free to determine wages.

This is in contrast to the US which has the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 which prohibits sex-based wage discrimination.

Additionally, Singapore’s main labour law- the Employment Act (Cap. 91), also does not contain any provisions that safeguard the principle of gender equality.

Despite this, the issue of gender equality and the gender pay gap in Singapore has slowly climbed its way up the social ladder of attention,where there was a debate in the Singapore Parliament for the first time in April 2017, proposing to express more support for women in the workforce, as well as to discuss ways to reduce the gender imbalance in Singapore’s workforce, especially at senior management levels.

While these moves are bringing Singapore to a positive start, it seems that it will take some time before this issue of gender wage gap and gender inequality in Singapore can be fully resolved.

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