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Workplace and hiring discrimination fall sharply from 2018: MOM survey

Workplace and hiring discrimination fall sharply from 2018: MOM survey

People wearing protective face masks waiting to cross the road at Church Street on Sep 6, 2021. (Photo: CNA/Gaya Chandramohan)

SINGAPORE: Eight per cent of resident workers faced workplace discrimination in 2021, a sharp fall from the 24 per cent who reported incidences of discrimination in 2018, a survey by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has found.

Among those who reported being discriminated against due to their personal attributes, the most common reason given was their age, and they were mainly aged 40 and older, according to the survey released on Wednesday (Mar 23).

Other attributes listed were pregnancy, mental health conditions, race, gender and disability.

The discrimination incidents were mostly related to career development, salary and promotion, said MOM.

The ministry and the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) have put in "a lot of effort" to correct stereotypes, raise awareness and promote fair employment practices in the last three years, said Mr Ang Boon Heng, director of Manpower Research and Statistics at MOM.

Another reason for the fall was a tighter labour market, such that employers placed "less emphasis on their preferences for certain demographic profiles".

Similar to 2018, only a small proportion of those who faced discrimination sought help, with one in five saying that they reported these incidences.

Most of them (79 per cent) asked for help from within the organisation or their union, 16 per cent said they asked for informal help from co-workers, friends or family, while less than 5 per cent sought formal help from government agencies.

"These findings signal the need for employers to have formal and impartial processes to handle workplace grievances, and to create a safe environment for victims to seek help," said the MOM report.

For the 80 per cent who remained silent, some (18.9 per cent) said that they feared being marginalised at work or making work relations awkward.

Another 15.4 per cent said they felt that the issue was not severe enough, while 15 per cent said they were worried about the impact on their career or future job opportunities.

Discrimination in hiring also fell, according to the report. In 2021, 25 per cent of job applicants were discriminated against during their job search, lower than 43 per cent in 2018.

Discrimination due to age and towards mothers were more common, said MOM. The hiring discrimination largely appeared in job advertisements containing demographic characteristics with no justification.

Respondents also reported that they were told by employers that they were not shortlisted due to their demographic profile, or that employers had asked for personal information not relevant to the job. 

The survey also found that 54 per cent of resident employees were in firms with formal procedures to manage workplace discrimination. This is a slight increase from 49.6 per cent in 2018.

The survey was conducted every three to four years, but with more focus on discrimination going forward, it will now be conducted every year, said the ministry.

The 2021 survey involved about 4,000 respondents, with a response rate of 85 per cent. MOM said that the sample was representative of Singapore’s resident workforce.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the correct percentage of respondents who sought informal help from co-workers, friends or family. We apologise for the error.

Source: CNA/hm(gs)


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