Women in Singapore earn 6% less than men for similar work: MOM study

Women in Singapore earn 6% less than men for similar work: MOM study

Women in Singapore earned 6 per cent less than their male peers in 2018, according to a study conducted by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) released on Thursday (Jan 9). Chloe Choo with more. 

SINGAPORE: Women in Singapore earned 6 per cent less than their male peers in 2018, according to a study conducted by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) released on Thursday (Jan 9).

This means women got S$342 less in median monthly salary than men who were in similar job roles. 

The 6 per cent adjusted gender pay gap is the wage difference that remains after taking into account factors such as the worker’s industry, occupation, age and education.

However, when just comparing the median pay between both genders, women in Singapore earned 16.3 per cent less than men in 2018.

This unadjusted figure, which is often used in international comparisons by the likes of the OECD, inched up by 0.3 percentage point from 2002.

The 16.3 per cent pay gap is largely driven by the tendency for men and women to work in different occupations, the study said, as women tend to be in lower-paying jobs compared to men, who continue to be over-represented in higher-paying occupations.

Women tend to end up in the educational, healthcare and administrative fields, while men dominate top executive and technical roles.

MOM chart gender pay gap
(Source: Ministry of Manpower)

The adjusted gender pay gap is a "better measure of whether men and women are paid equally for doing similar work", said MOM in a press release.

The study, which was done in collaboration with the Associate Professor Jessica Pan from the National University of Singapore, looked at the data of full-time workers aged between 25 and 64 from 33,000 households compiled from MOM’s Comprehensive Labour Force Survey.

The 6 per cent wage gap that remains could be due to factors such as the firm type, position within the industry, work experience, caregiving responsibilities and discrimination. 

Based on other available data such as the difference in the labour force participation rate, the researchers believe that parenting plays a large role in the adjusted pay gap.

As more women end up as caregivers and take time off to look after their children, they are likely to lag behind in work experience and career progression, the study said.

Labour force participation rate of women, women with children, men

According to the study’s researchers, Singapore has a lower adjusted gender pay gap compared to countries with similar studies, such as the US (8 per cent), Canada (7.7 per cent to 8.3 per cent) and China (18.3 per cent).


While the median wage gap has risen slightly from 16 per cent in 2002 to 16.3 per cent in 2018, the adjusted gender pay gap has fallen by 2.8 percentage points since 2002.

Explaining the increase of 0.3 percentage point, an MOM spokesperson said that gender segregation among occupations has widened and plays a bigger role today than in 2002.

The report found that among the occupations that women stay in, the change in the monthly real median income has fallen behind.

For example, there was almost no increase in the income of general office clerks, a position filled mostly by women. 

On the flipside, the income of sales, marketing and business development managers, a role that sees a larger proportion of men, spiked by nearly S$4,000 a month over the 16-year period.

Occupation real wage growth
(Source: Ministry of Manpower's Comprehensive Labour Force Survey).

According to research cited by this report, women lean towards certain occupations due to reasons like being more averse to risk, being less competitive and conforming to gender social norms.    


This is the first time the ministry has delved into the adjusted gender pay gap, MOM said. They started research at the beginning of 2019.

The ministry chose to compare the data to 2002’s in order to find out how the wage gap has progressed in the long-run. 

Wages tend to fluctuate from year to year, and it is difficult to measure how cultural shifts affect the gender wage gap in the short-term, a MOM spokesperson said during a media briefing on Thursday.

Data from 2002 was used because this was earliest available comparable data based on industry and occupational classification, an MOM spokesperson said.

Given the latest findings, the ministry might do a follow-up study on how caregiving and parenthood affect wages, the spokesperson added.

As for whether gender discrimination has contributed to the adjusted gender wage gap, a MOM spokesman said it is unrealistic to say that employer bias does not exist.

"(But) the part where the employer (decides) to pay the man higher than the woman is unlikely to play a very big portion in that 6 per cent," the spokesman added.

The drop in the adjusted gender pay gap shows that the Government has made progress in helping women choose both work and family as far as possible, he added.

He cited government initiatives aimed at addressing the disadvantages working women face, including the Work-Life Grant, which are monetary incentives for companies to implement flexible work arrangements, as well as the availability of shared parental leave.

Source: CNA/rp(hm)