The theme for International Women’s Day 2022 is #BreaktheBias, which encourages us to take action towards a “gender equal world” – be it in the media, government, or workplace.
Short of leading a protest at Hong Lim Park – just kidding, don’t arrest me – or perhaps, chiming in with netizens, there’s not much I can do to spark overnight change in those departments. What I can do, however, is to take this opportunity to raise awareness and bring this conversation back to light.
International Women’s Day 2022 – #BreaktheBias
So in celebration of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2022, here are some observations on the current state of gender equality in Singapore – both in the workplace and at home. Enjoy.
The gender pay gap – women are paid less in Singapore
The issue of women earning less than men is a frequently discussed one. The mostly commonly looked at indicator in gauging this is ofcourse, the gender pay gap. Let’s look at the numbers to see how far we’ve done in the last few years.
In 2020, full-time female employees aged 25 to 54 earned 14.4% lower than their male counterparts, narrowing from 16.3% in 2018. In 2017, the number stood at 19%. The numbers are on the decline but no matter what sources and data sets you look at, the bottomline is the same: Women do earn less – it’s just a matter of how much less.
If you look at the most “legit” source, the Ministry of Manpower, the gender pay gap is at 14.4% as of 2020. Adding to that, current hiring practices in Singapore perpetuate this existing wage gap, because many employers base their offers on the applicant’s last-drawn salary.
Beyond the wage gap, a survey conducted by the NTUC U Women and Family (U WAF) and People’s Action Party Women’s Wing (PAP WW) found that more than 1 in 5 Singaporeans believe that gender discrimination exists in the workplace and twice as many women as men feel that their employers favour male candidates when hiring.
Making matters worse, despite drawing lower salaries… women are expected to pay more for a lot of things in Singapore.
The pink tax – women pay more for the same things
The pink tax is basically gender-based price discrimination whereby goods and services targeted at women are more expensive than similar goods and services for men.
Put simply, it’s the phenomenon of seeing floral pink razors selling for double the price of plain blue ones, and having to pay 10% to 20% more for a ladies’ haircut instead of a men’s one.
And women don’t just pay more for frivolous stuff like toiletries and salon treatments. The discrimination actually extends into other more “serious” industries like insurance whereby young women pay more for things like critical illness coverage.
Take the government CareShield Life scheme for instance: At 30 years old – when Singaporeans must take up the policy – women will pay $254 instead the men’s $206. Premiums increase by 2% each year for the first 5 years, adjusted as needed thereafter.
According to Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Health, this was determined on an actuarially correct basis, considering that women have longer life expectancy, have a higher chance to be severely disabled by the end of their lives, and are likely to remain in disability for longer than men.
This caused a huge uproar when it was announced in 2018 because many viewed it as a double penalty for women, who already earn lower wages and have less in the Medisave.
Gender roles at home – the “invisible” work women are expected to do
But enough about dollars and cents, how about unpaid labour like household chores, taking care of the kids and other duties at home?
Once upon a time, when the fridge is not stocked and there’s dirty laundry left unwashed, it’s the women who were penalised. These days, especially with younger couples, household chores are a shared responsibility. In fact, it’s not rare to hear of men who have taken over the kitchen from their wives. House husbands have also officially become a thing!
As they should, men are seemingly assuming more responsibilities around the house. Finally, the day has come. We’ve generally become much more liberal in terms of gendered expectations and traditional roles. For the men who have yet to get along with the times, move along, help your wives out!
Conclusion – should we be celebrating gender equality in Singapore?
Well, despite the above, I would still say yes.
A huge part of the #BreaktheBias movement is paving the way for gender equality, and Singapore has done relatively well at closing the gap.
For one thing, Halimah Yacob was elected as president in 2017 – making headlines as Singapore’s first female head of state, speaking leaps and bounds of our progress. The gender pay gap is also seeing vast improvements year on year. If anything, it’s safe to say, we’re moving in the right direction.
Additionally, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report (2020), Singapore ranks relatively high on the scale of gender parity. We are #54 in the world in terms of our overall score, and #20 for the “wage equality for similar work” subindex. We come in 5th in the region (East Asia & The Pacific), beating countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Japan and Korea.
So yes, I genuinely believe that we are taking baby steps towards a more gender-balanced society. And until then, I will go ahead and enjoy accelerated rewards on my ladies’ credit cards and free drinks on ladies night.
How do you feel about gender equality in Singapore? Weigh in on the conversation in the comments below!