SINGAPORE: Encouraging flexible work arrangements and helping women with skills training so they stay employable are among the areas the Manpower Ministry will look into to enable women to play a bigger role in society.
Over the past two days, 18 Members of Parliament (MPs) and five ministries spoke in Parliament on the challenges women face in balancing work and home.
Even as they acknowledged that women have made significant strides in the past few decades, many members of Parliament agreed that more has to be done for them.
To ensure women who stop work to take care of families can have enough funds for retirement, some MPs suggested that spouses can do more.
"Encourage husbands to top up their wife's CPF account so that they have retirement adequacy, even if they are just stopping work for a short period,” said MP Alex Yam on Tuesday (Apr 4). “To encourage this, I urge the Ministry of Manpower to consider raising the interest rate return for voluntary top-ups and increase the CPF cash top-up relief for spouse or from child-to-parent."
Responding to suggestions to make the transfer of CPF savings between spouses mandatory, the Manpower Minister said such transfers should be left to the couple to decide.
"It would be intrusive for the Government to mandate such transfers,” said Minister Lim Swee Say. “However, we do share members' concern about the spouses and whether they have adequate savings in their CPF and retirement.
“What we have done is to relax the rules for spousal transfers, and the response has been positive. Last year, we saw 70 per cent more cases of spousal transfers totalling S$110 million. In fact, the amount doubled that of the year before," he said.
However, Mr Lim added that more has to be done to enhance human resource practices such as appraising employees fairly based on work outcomes and not take into account their work arrangements.
“Employers should set targets, conduct regular performance assessments and appraise employees fairly based on work outcome, regardless whether these employees are on flexi-time or based work arrangement,” he said. “This is advocated in the Tripartite Advisory on Work Arrangements, and is further reinforced in tripartite guidelines on fair employment practices.
“We are aware there are employers who do not observe these guidelines so for employees who feel discriminated against, TAFEP will look into their comments and refer the Manpower Ministry to cases when warranted,” Mr Lim stated.
SUPPORTING WOMEN IN SINGAPORE
During the debate, Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin shared that the Government is reviewing the issue of marital immunity for rape and will give an update once that's completed.
The ministry will also look into representation of women on charity boards.
"Women leaders in the non-profit sector have shown that a combination of ‘heart and mind’ can go a long way in building up our social capital, and help us to become a caring society,” said Mr Tan. “While women sitting on the boards of these charities make up about 31 per cent, 13 per cent of the charities still have no female representation."
In closing, MP Tin Pei Ling - who was one of five MPs who moved the motion for debate - said that gender equality will help Singapore progress.
"Our support for women (and men) to balance their multiple roles should help them reach greater heights, in our economy, in various professions, and in many diverse frontiers,” she said. “Again, my colleagues and I have moved this motion with the aim of building on the strengths of women, to recognise and close the gaps. And most importantly, we desire to make Singapore the best home for everyone."
This was the first time Parliament debated a proposal to express support for women in Singapore.