A post for all women!

This is going to be a lengthy and wordy, but important, post. It is going to be a post for all the women =)

Just to update for those who have been following my blog, I have been rather low profile of my career. For those who do not know about me, I do have a Full-Time job. However, I have changed my job just a few months ago and now I am in a new industry and environment. I am very contented with the current job even though I have much to learn.

I'm financially independent since I was 14 years old because I worked several part time jobs during that time. This year marks my 6 years of working as a Full-Time in the society. As compared to people who are around my age, I guess that there are lots of benefits in getting into the society early. For example: my working experience. Women tend to get mature faster than the males; this is scientifically and logically proven. Haha. Throwback to the age of 15-16, I remembered a group of us (girls) started to look for part-time jobs during our holidays while the majority of the guys in our class did not. This is one of the very good examples. Hahaha.

WHAT?! LESS THAN 70% OF WOMEN AGED 25 AND ABOVE ARE WORKING? 

Some employment statistics for you to ponder over:
- Labour Force Participation Rate of females (aged 15 and above): 58.1% (Male is 75.8%)
- Employment Rate of females (aged 25 and above): 69.2% (male is 89.3%)
- Total Labour Force is 2,138.8K (Female = 955.7k and male is 1,183.1K)
- Out of the 955.7K, 913.8K is employed and 41.9K is unemployed
(Statistics of Labour Force Participation taken in msf.gov.sg) 

While the female labour force participation rate has been on the rise, the employment rate of women still pales in comparison to the employment rate of men. Can you believe so many women are not working! I hope it’s by choice, and not driven by circumstances.

Did you know the average lifespan of women in Singapore is 85 years old? Taking into consideration the longer life span of women and to ensure they have enough for their old age, I think it is really important for us women to stay employed and be economically resilient.
 
I had just gotten married but I already received questions like "When are we planning to have a baby" "Do you intend to give birth now?". It seems like a vicious cycle. Study, Work, Marry and Family. Ultimately, the married females will tend to "lugi" (lose out) in some way. People also asked me whether I will continue to work if I start a family or even have babies to take care of…

Why not?

I always believe that it is important for women to be financially independent. The usual family model is where the man has to always be the one who brings home the bread, while the woman just breeds. But that doesn’t have to be the only model for all families. I’d like to see a society where the women are given fair opportunity to work even when they’re married and have children.

Yet, there are still a number of females and mothers who are lagging behind in this working society.

WOMEN AS AN INVALUABLE SOURCE OF MANPOWER RESOURCE

One of the key reasons many women in Singapore are not working after getting married is family responsibilities. Yea, stuff like housework, childcare or care-giving to relatives. For some reason, and probably since the beginning of time, a lot of the household-related chores and family responsibilities fall upon the shoulders of the women. Even the seemingly swimmingly successful women say it's tough juggling professional and family commitments.

Clearly, there is a need to do more to support our women workers in balancing work and family. I would love to see a more inclusive workforce. I suppose the government realizes the importance of recruiting and retaining female in the workforce. Singapore has been facing a manpower crunch for years now, and the recent tightening on foreign manpower is not helping either. Businesses should start looking at this alternative source of labour – the group of currently economically inactive mothers and women. Many of these women have prior working experience and are able to contribute lots to the society. They just need some adjustments to return to the workforce, and yes, businesses need to look at offering more flexible forms of working arrangements to lure them back.

ARE HELP AND SUPPORT AVAILABLE FOR WOMEN?

To be honest, I’m also not sure what help there is for women. So I asked my best friend, Google. Haha!

Heard of Back 2 Work with U Programme? I read that this is a programme under NTUC which helps women to enter or re-enter the workforce. Glad to know that the Labour Movement, too, has been working behind the scenes to help recruit and retain women in the workforce.

It’s probably early days yet to say if this programme works. But at least there is some help and support for women or mothers who are actively looking for jobs. Back2Work with U focuses on job placements and also the skills acquisition. The programme also organizes career fairs, re-skill and other training programmes. These help women and mothers who have left the working society for years to gain confidence and understand the current employment trends.

WHAT ABOUT FLEXIBLE WORK ARRANGEMENT (FWA)?

All said and done, an understanding employer plays the most significant role in our pursuit of work-life balance. Ms Cham Hui Fong, the Assistant Secretary-General at NTUC, said, “We are advocating for more family-friendly workplaces so that more women can remain in the workforce while caring for their families. And Flexible Work Arrangement is a crucial component of a family-friendly workplace. FWA positions helps enable more mothers to return to the workforce.”
Ms Cham continued to say, “For Singapore to have a sustainable flow of human talent, it is important for that paradigm shift in allowing and enabling work to be done in different ways. This will attract diverse talents and allow companies to be competitive globally.”

For instance, U Flex Movement by the Women Development Secretariat (WDS) advocates employers to offer flexible work arrangement (FWA) so as to empower their employees to excel at work and in their roles and aspiration outside work.

For example: Working from home will definitely help the mothers who have babies or elderly to take care of. It gives time flexibility for them. However, the supervisor in FWA will be responsible and accountable for their roles at work and support the colleagues who may require FWA as well.

A recent survey also showed that more and more companies are beginning to wise up to the benefits of offering FWA. The Ministry of Manpower has also been encouraging companies to offer FWA too; you can read more here.

Ms Cham Hui Fong shared that about 15 to 20 per cent of unionised companies are already offering FWA or some form. NTUC hopes to hit the target of 50 per cent by the end of 2015. I hope this will be a big fat success!

HARDEST TO FIX – MINDSET OF EMPLOYERS, OF CO-WORKERS, OF OURSELVES…

Through the years, the government has been helping to promote work-life balance through legislation and other packages. Some measures include extending the maternity leave to 16 weeks and paid childcare leave from two to six days, etc. There are also other considerations like providing a more holistic infrastructure through building affordable and reliable childcare centres so that women can go out to work. Financial help in the form of subsidies and financial assistance for children from lower-income households is also in place.

But know what? I think the biggest elephant in the room is actually our own mindset. The hardest and possibly most important thing is to change mindsets – to move away from the ‘traditional gender roles within a family, and also the mindset of employers as well as co-workers. And sadly, ourselves too.

Real change can only happen if we are prepared and ready to change the way we think. Couples have to rethink the way they see each other’s work and also each other’s responsibility at home. Companies have to relook the work process and even the appraisal process, and fellow colleagues will have to ask themselves if they are prepared to cover for one another.

WHAT’s NEXT?

The road ahead to recruit and retain women in the workforce is still long and possibly difficult. Oh well, I choose to be positive and cheery in terms of my outlook in life. So, I wanna look on the bright side and feel grateful that the government and the people at NTUC are already promoting work-life initiatives to set the ground and to provide the infrastructure.

Know what? Shall we be more radical and think this, Why can’t men be the house-husbands while women work? Or, how about us being more receptive to men going on FWA and spend more time with the family instead of the women? Or perhaps more companies can allow their employees to work from home where practicable. Not only does it promote work-life harmony, it is also good for the environment and our planet.

What say you? I say never say never, anything CAN happen.


With love

Anonymous –   – (January 9, 2015 at 7:00 PM)  

So what are you working as now? I agree with your article bout encouraging woman to be independent financially but sometimes circumstances alter real life decision making. To change the mindsets and perceptions of employers take time. Look at the rest of the world and how they cope with work life balance. They are way ahead of us in terms of existence and how long did they take to get to where they are now. Challenging times ahead as our working population shrink... In my opinion, what's lacking is the infra. If you are a parent, you will understand that it's hard to get your child a place in infancy care etc. and sometimes these care centres may not live up to expectations. To some, a good investment is to invest in the future of their kids so they decide to quit the workforce and focus on nurturing their little ones. Money is not always everything. It's a choice and the trust that couples work as a team in a marriage to do what's best for their family ie husband brings in the money if he's earning more (stats had show that man generally earn more) and wife takes care of the household. Anw... Congrats, and have a blessed marriage!

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