Singapore, workforce, women, labour force, MOM, employment

While Singapore’s full-time female employment rate has been rising steadily over the previous decade, MOM notes that there is still a small proportion of women who have not been able to participate or participate fully in the workforce due to caregiving responsibilities.

According to a parliamentary response by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Singapore has seen an increase in female employment rate over the past decade - from 54.0% in 2010, to 57.7% in 2020.

Looking at the data per industry, women’s share among professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) has also increased over the decade, from 41.1% to 45.6%. Moreover, the data suggested a trend in which more women are joining growth sectors such as information and communications, financial services, and health and social services. Altogether, women make up 52.8% in these three sectors.

There has also been a noticeable improvement in the share of women in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sector, albeit still admittedly lower in comparison to other sectors. Per MOM's data, the number increased from 29.9% in 2015 to 32.4% in 2020.

The possible reasons for the differences in gender ratios across occupations, as listed down in a previous study, could be due to gender differences in terms of personality and psychological traits, skills, different value placed on workplace flexibility, as well as social norms.


While Singapore’s full-time female employment rate has been rising steadily over the previous decade, MOM notes that there is still a small proportion of women who have not been able to participate or participate fully in the workforce due to caregiving responsibilities. In 2020, 15% of women cited family-related responsibilities as their main reason for being outside the labour force, while 6% were working part-time due to family or personal commitments, as shared by Minister of State for Manpower Gan Siow Huang in a Parliamentary response. 

To ease the process of returning to work, she highlighted initiatives such as the Workforce Singapore’s (WSG’s) employment facilitation programmes and SkillsFuture Singapore’s training programmes, which enable a trial period of up to three months for employers-employees to assess their mutual job fit, with allowance provided. Employers benefit from training and salary support for hiring and reskilling mid-career jobseekers for new occupations. Eligible working caregivers may be provided with up to $4,000 in cash and CPF top-ups annually for those earning lower incomes.

She also cited subsidised care services and grants for families with caregiving needs provided by the Government. For instance, subsidies of up to 80% are provided for non-residential eldercare services, such as day care and day rehabilitation services, to eligible families. Financial assistance is also provided to those with moderate to severe disability, to defray the cost of caregiving. More efforts are also being put into encouraging the widespread adoption of flexible work arrangements (FWAs), noting the work done on the Tripartite Standard and Advisory on FWAs, Alliance for Action on Work-Life Harmony, and more.

MOM also introduced and enhanced measures in recent years to help all Singaporeans, including caregivers, build sufficient savings for retirement. An example of such would be the Silver Support Scheme which was enhanced in 2021 to provide quarterly payouts of up to $900. About two-thirds of the Silver Support recipients are women, including many caregivers. Incentives are also provided for caregivers and their loved ones to top up their CPF in cash. As for older caregivers, housing monetisation schemes, such as the Lease Buyback Scheme and Silver Housing Bonus, help to unlock their housing equity to supplement their retirement needs.

In 2021, TAFEP did not receive any cases relating to disputes on FWAs.

With an ageing and plateauing population, it is important to enable all residents to participate in the workforce.

MOM acknowledges that women tend to still shoulder a heavier share of domestic responsibilities. To ease their responsibilities, MOM encourages employers to adopt FWAs and other work-life harmony practices, and recognise those who do so. In fact, nearly eight in 10 employers provide at least one form of formal FWAs in 2020.


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