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Improving workplace equality, caregiver support among recommendations to be made in White Paper on women’s issues

SINGAPORE: Recommendations on improving fairness at the workplace, support for caregivers and protection for victims of sexual offences and violence will be part of the White Paper on women's issues, said Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo on Tuesday (Mar 8).

Speaking at the 2022 CNA Leadership Summit, Mrs Teo said the White Paper will be presented soon, and that there will be “many important recommendations”. 

This year's Leadership Summit was held on International Women's Day, under the theme of "women inspiring change". 

The White Paper was first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in September at the closing session of the Conversations on Singapore Women’s Development. 

The initiative was launched in September 2020 and involved a series of engagements between the public and private sectors, as well as non-governmental organisations.

“I think it’s also important to recognise that in putting together the White Paper what matters most is what our women want, what they tell us is important in their lives,” said Mrs Teo, who is also chairperson of the People's Action Party’s Women’s Wing. 

“It’s not policymakers, the team just looking at numbers looking at analysis and then just thinking about it. That’s important, that ultimately we want to hear from the ground what’s important to your day-to-day experience.” 

Adding that a “bumper crop” of recommendations were submitted to the Government for consideration, Mrs Teo noted that thousands of women “enthusiastically participated” in the Conversations on Singapore Women’s Development. 

“I should also say that, very interestingly, lots of men were part of the conversation too. That was very refreshing,” she added. 

Three recommendations are “particularly responsive” to what women shared in the sessions leading up to the White Paper, said Mrs Teo. 

The first is enshrining fairness at the workplace, including in terms of recruitment, advancement, and how harassment is dealt with, she said. 

Responding to an earlier question in the dialogue about what is needed to see more females in top leadership roles in the workplace, Mrs Teo said people “quite often” express a desire to see equality in the workplace. 

“I think there are two parts to it. One is equality of opportunity, and the other is in terms of outcomes,” she added. 

In terms of opportunities, there has been a “tremendous amount of progress” in Singapore because education and training is “very widely available”, and women are taking advantage of these opportunities, said the former manpower minister. 

“But… in terms of outcomes, there is still a lot of room for improvement. It’s not uncommon these days in every occupation to see women. And at the entry level, there is no shortage also, women candidates perform very well, and they are very much tapped upon by employers,” said Mrs Teo. 

“But as the years pass and as we go further up the ladder, and when you look into the C-suites and if you look into the boardroom, the numbers are still relatively small; they can be better.” 

But employers have a “very strong realisation” that they should not deprive themselves of talented women employees, she added. 

“And if we continue to grow the economy well, if opportunities continue to expand, then that is good for everyone, and I think especially for women,” said Mrs Teo. 

“I’m quietly hopeful that in my lifetime, we will be able to see, even at the highest echelons, much more equal representation of men and women.” 

The White Paper will also explore and make recommendations on how Singapore can enhance support for home-based caregiving. 

“Because majority of the caregivers are still women. And this is absolutely necessary because families that have to deal with frail seniors, and this can be for very long term, they do need better support, they need more relief,” said Mrs Teo. 

Violence against women, sexual offences and family violence, which is something an “advanced society” like Singapore does not want to see much of, will also be addressed in the White Paper’s recommendations, she added. 

“So it would be in strengthening protection for victims of sexual offences and violence, and making it absolutely clear that there is no place for such acts in Singapore, and women really should not have to bear with it.” 

Source: CNA/hw(rw)