How Can Singapore Be A More Gender-Inclusive Place to Work?
It’s the 21st century, yet the World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) Global Gender Gap Report’s data shows that the gender gap will take another two centuries to close.
How well does Singapore perform in terms of gender parity?
In Singapore alone, based on the variables measured by WEF below, the only variable which we’ve reached (actually exceeded) parity is a healthy life expectancy.
Singapore’s rankings (since we seem to be a nation obsessed with them) fare relatively poorly especially in political empowerment, and economic participation and opportunity.
What can Singapore do to close the gender gap?
In terms of economic participation and opportunity, with the Singapore government having announced its Budget for the year 2018, Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Ms K. Thanaletchimi wants more to be done for women at work, especially valuing the family behind every worker.
Her proposals to give more women employment and employability include:
• mandating the right to request for flexible work arrangement (FWA),
• sharing best practices and catalysing change for FWA to be more pervasive,
• mandating caregiving leave,
• having more lactation rooms,
• nurture more women into the STEM industry,
• and customising Return-To-Work Programmes per industry needs so that more women can find jobs.
Ms K. Thanaletchimi herself comes from an industry, specifically the healthcare industry, which has seen valuable women workers (such as 4,000 non-practising nurses) drop out of employment due to various reasons.
As President of the Healthcare Services Employees’ Union (HSEU) which represents healthcare workers, and Chair of NTUC’s Women’s Committee, she has come across cases where a nurse had to give up her job as her Reporting Officer refused to grant her FWA, and a young mother who had no choice but to take caregiving leave to care for her sick child and was then given an ultimatum to choose between her job and looking after her child.
Why should employers give women more opportunity to contribute at the workplace?
Getting more women back to work is important as Singapore’s working population ages. The median age of our resident population in 2017 is already 40.5 years!
For example, as Singapore’s healthcare industry shifts to community nursing and Intermediate and Long-Term Care (ILTC) sector, skilled nurses are needed to fill in new job roles.
Ms K. Thanaletchimi is lobbying the Singapore government to study why 4,000 nurses exited the profession, and how the government can work with the Labour Movement to give them and other workers opportunities and training to take up these new jobs, which will help to alleviate Singapore’s manpower and skills crunch.
Although taking into consideration the various working needs of women will require a rethink of HR policies and how to shift cultures towards a more performance-oriented (rather than facetime-oriented) working culture, having more pro-work-life workplaces and education on gender equality does not only benefit women but also men (who are increasingly taking on caregiving roles) and entire families.
As for employers who are worried about being taken advantage of, Ms K. Thanaletchimi says, “Generally, the behaviour of many staff will fall into the category of ‘good deeds beget good deeds’. As a developed country, while we are concerned of the economic growth, it should not be at the expense of social needs.”.
Featured photo: Women at Work
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