SINGAPORE: Even as the Government works to prepare Singaporeans for future challenges, the People’s Action Party (PAP) must “abide by the principles which have won the trust of generations of Singaporeans”, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Saturday (Sep 14).
"The PAP Government must continue to strive to meet the needs of a broad spectrum of society," he said.
"We do this by staying close to the ground, to better understand the needs of our people, to design the right policies and execute these well."
Delivering the keynote address at the PAP Women’s Wing annual conference, Mr Heng said the organisation has play a key role in this, by pushing for change to better support Singaporean women and ensure that they can participate more fully in society.
While the PAP Women’s Wing was set up in 1989, 35 years after the PAP was formed, the party’s support for the empowerment of women has its roots in PAP's “very beginnings” said Mr Heng.
Support from women contributed to the PAP’s first electoral victory in 1959, he noted.
“The PAP’s policy of meritocracy has been a great equaliser for women as it open doors to equal education and equal opportunity,”said Mr Heng. “This has made a big difference between us and many other countries which stuck to the traditional divisions of the role of men and women."
"I’M CERTAIN WE CAN DO BETTER"
Mr Heng also said he would like to see more women in leadership roles in society – whether in politics, or in public or private sectors.
While there were only four female Members of Parliament (MPs) when the PAP Women’s Wing was formed, several decades later, there are 20 women who are MPs and eight political office holders.
The highest office is held by President Halimah Yacob, he noted.
“I’m happy to see more women in political leadership and we must build on this,” said Mr Heng. “In our private sector, women now make up about one-third of senior management positions in Singapore. But only 9 per cent of Singapore businesses have a female CEO and this lags behind ASEAN economies which averages 21 per cent.
“I’m certain that we can do better ... Together we must press on with breaking barriers for women to take on leadership roles at all levels of society."
Women in Singapore should also continue to"have meaningful work" while having the support to start a family, take care of parents or have other pursuits, added Mr Heng.
"Meaningful work enables our women to achieve their full potential and contribute fully to the well-being of our people. Fulfilling relationships at home bring joy to all around us," he said.
Achieving this means having more inclusive workplaces as well as a more supportive family environment, he added, pointing out that the PAP Women's Wing has played a pivotal role in advocating for the Government and companies to help women better balance work and family.
Ultimately, the PAP remains committed to supporting women’s rights, said Mr Heng.
“The PAP’s support for women’s rights reflects our longstanding commitment to building a society of equal opportunities where all Singaporeans can grow to their fullest potential,” he said. “As long as the PAP is in government, we will always strive to ensure that women in Singapore will have the same opportunities as men, to realise their potential, to lead fulfilling lives.
“This commitment is enduring, it is equally crucial yesterday, today, and tomorrow.”