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Close gender pay gap by helping women break into growth sectors, re-enter workforce: PAP groups

Get more women into STEM-related fields so they can "reap the financial gains", say PAP Women's Wing and Young PAP.

The People's Action Party's women and youth wings are pushing for more women to break into emerging and growth sectors, including in STEM-related fields like information and communications technology, advanced manufacturing, healthcare and biomedical sciences.

In a joint position paper announced at a virtual press conference on Thursday (Jul 29), the groups also advocated for the development of holistic support packages and support networks for women who want to re-enter the workforce and rebuild their careers following caregiving breaks. 

PUSH FOR MORE WOMEN IN STEM

"There is a disparity between what men earn as compared to what women earn - a gender pay gap," said the PAP Women's Wing and Young PAP in the paper, titled "Take Action for Women in Singapore". 

The groups added: "In reviewing the data to understand the disparity, we note there is still a higher share of women in the lower income bands compared to men."

To close this gap, the paper posits that Singapore needs to see more women in emerging and growth sectors, including STEM-related fields, so they can "capitalise on the economic benefits and reap the financial gains".

Women remain under-represented in certain emerging sectors. For example, they make up a lower share of employed residents in STEM occupations such as science and engineering professionals, information and communications technology professionals, and information and communications technicians, according to the paper. 

 

READ: Commentary: Where are all the women? The myth of the pipeline problem in Asia’s tech sector

 

While there has been an "encouraging development" in the number of young women pursuing diplomas and degrees in STEM fields, there is still an "attrition in the numbers" that eventually pursue a career in these industries, said the groups. 

The paper proposes that the Government leverages existing national movements and efforts like the SG Women in Tech movement to encourage young women and create more awareness about STEM as a career. 

"We should strengthen our efforts so that more extensive and structured programmes can be carried out for girls and young women at different age groups and from different socio-economic backgrounds," the groups said.

The Women's Wing and Young PAP also suggest that young girls be exposed to more female role models who can inspire them to pursue tech-related or STEM subjects in school. 

Older students and those in Institutes of Higher Learning should also be connected to career mentors, as well as organisations within the community that have good women leadership onboarding and pipeline development programmes. 

MORE HOLISTIC SUPPORT FOR WOMEN RE-ENTERING WORKFORCE

The paper also addresses the challenges that women face when they want to rejoin the workforce after taking a career break to perform caregiving duties.

"They struggle to maintain a consistent employment cycle without seeing the responsibilities such as caregiving and building families as trade-offs," the two PAP groups observed.

 

READ: Commentary: 'Super mums' have one simple request. Don’t hinder them from returning to work

 

According to 2020 data from the Department of Statistics Singapore, female labour participation rates steadily decreased from 88.3 per cent between the ages of 30 to 34 to 71.3 per cent between the ages of 50 to 54. In contrast, the male labour force participation rate remained steady at 96.8 per cent and 93.9 per cent respectively.

These are "significant gaps", the paper pointed out. 

And while programmes and packages to support individuals who are transiting into a new career exist, women who leave the workforce to care for their family continue to face difficulties getting back to work. 

Women with blue-collar jobs have "little access" to flexible arrangements, while women PMETs find that their career options and opportunities are "especially limited", the groups said. 

The "unfamiliarity and fear of the fast-changing work environment and lack of awareness of existing resources", as well as obstacles faced by single mothers including housing and childcare arrangements, were also noted in the paper. 

 

READ: Commentary: The struggle mums in their 30s, 40s face juggling young kids and work is real

READ: Commentary: New mums need courage to fend off unrealistic expectations from family and work

 

To help remove such barriers from women's efforts to return to work, the paper suggests that the Government work with organisations like Mums-At-Work, Daughters of Tomorrow, NTUC-Women and Family Division, and Mendaki Sense, and develop a support package to "channel women to the schemes available for refresher or reskilling courses, and provide guidance in navigating the current work environment in different sectors".

"Some focus and attention should be given to help women obtain suitable work opportunities and get back on track with their careers."

The groups also said that these programmes should be made available within the community through the grassroots network. 

 

READ: PAP women and youth wings call on Government to allow egg freezing for non-medical reasons

 

For example, the Career Options and Opportunities Job Fair organised in Punggol was a platform where resources were consolidated and women were given an avenue to be matched with progressive employers.

The paper suggests as well that the Government work with employers and provide them with resources and incentives to create "returnship" programmes that could help women regain confidence and familiarise themselves with current work culture. 

Finally, the Government should support partner organisations in creating "a more permanent platform or support network" for women considering a return to work so they can have quick access to information and a community support network, the groups said.

 

READ: Want equal respect between genders? Update sex education syllabus regularly, say PAP groups

 

More than 1,500 people contributed their insights for the paper, through dialogue sessions that saw the participation of both men and women. Surveys were also conducted to understand community sentiment.

The paper, which contains recommendations spanning other issues including the gender pay gap, equal sharing of caregiving responsibilities and rallying a whole-of-society approach to changing mindsets and advancing women's development, was submitted to the Government on Thursday.

The authorities will input their response in a White Paper by the end of the year, after which the recommendations may be debated and discussed in Parliament, said PAP Women's Wing adviser Rahayu Mahzam. 

CNA Women is a new section on CNA Lifestyle that seeks to inform, empower and inspire the modern woman. If you have women-related news, issues and ideas to share with us, email CNAWomen [at] mediacorp.com.sg.

Source: CNA/hs
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