Leveling The Playing Ground

Published on 23 March 2017


While women around the world have to take to the streets to highlight their important role in the workforce, women leaders in Singapore are pushing for equality through dialogue and diplomacy.

“Women in Singapore have not reached our potential for equality. Many things need to be done before we can achieve this. For example, only two out of 10 board members are female. The labour participation rate of women is still not good enough.

“When we look at other data, there is still a wage gap between men and women in Singapore [figures from 2015 show that for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes 89 cents, according to the World Economic Forum]. To say we have succeeded, there must be good indicators. Data is showing that the journey isn’t over yet,” said NTUC Women’s Committee Chair and Labour Nominated Member of Parliament K Thanaletchimi, in a recent interview with NTUC This Week.




In Singapore, like many countries in the world, women outnumber men – with the ratio being about 100 women for every 96 men, according to the Ministry of Social and Family Development. Despite this, the labour participation rate of women in Singapore in 2016 stood at 60.4 per cent, as compared to the 76.2 per cent for men.

The Labour Movement has been working hard to get women outside the workforce back to work by advocating for initiatives such as the Returnship Programme – a programme similar to an internship, to help women ease back into the workforce.

“The Returnship Programme can empower women. Once they are independent economically, they will be more active in their roles at work and within their families. Once they are in the workforce, they may not need to be dependent on anyone and instead can help to give back to their families and communities in many ways,” said Ms Thanaletchimi, who believes that having more women in the workforce may improve the chance for better equality.




According to a Manpower Ministry survey released in January this year, 41 per cent of women outside the labour force cited family responsibilities as their main reason for not working.

This highlights the role of the employer in helping employees juggle work and family life through progressive practices such as flexible work arrangements and work-from-home schemes, according to Ms Thanaletchimi. NTUC Women’s Committee Vice-Chair Noorfarahin Ahmad echoed this and believes that the importance of such family-friendly schemes to get women to return to work cannot be denied.

“Women play multi-faceted roles and many will consider their families’ situation before joining the workforce. The work-life policies are something we must strengthen among other things. We can have job vacancies for women, but if they are not given suitable arrangements, many will not want to come back to the workforce.

“Women must also be proactive in upgrading themselves. They must take on training opportunities in order to stay relevant in today’s workforce,” she added. Hasliza Ali, 41, understands this importance and has taken the initiative to upgrade herself. (Click HERE to read full story)

The Labour Movement has also over the years worked with employers and government agencies to develop initiatives such as the WorkPro Work-Life Grant to incentivise companies to implement such schemes. One such company who has tapped on the grant is Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts who has introduced pro work-life initiatives for its employees. (Click HERE to read full story)




According to the Manpower Ministry survey, a majority of women outside the workforce with a degree are also in the prime working ages of 25 to 54 – individuals the women’s committee believes are capable of strengthening Singapore’s workforce.

For a start, it is putting in efforts to help women who hold either a degree or diploma in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related fields to come back to work and seize opportunities in these growing industries.

According to another recent survey by NTUC’s Women and Family Unit on 529 women looking to re-enter the workforce, of the 22 women with a degree in engineering, less than half worked in an engineering job in their last formal employment.

“The participation for women in STEM industries is very weak. In fact, women make up less than 50 per cent in all these industries. These industries need workers and they are sunrise. They provide a lot of opportunities for women. We will continue to push for women, especially those with the right qualifications, to join and boost these industries,” said Ms Thanaletchimi.

One woman who has no problems in joining the engineering industry is 26-year-old Laura Tan who believes women are also capable of having successful careers in male-dominated industries. (Click HERE to read full story)


Source: NTUC This Week 19 March 2017, Story and Photo by Fawwaz Baktee



Tags: UWomenNetwork,  KThanaletchimi,  NoorFarahinAhmad,  ReturnshipProgramme,  WorkLifeBalance,  NTUC,  Labour Movement

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