In the middle of January ‘20, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) of Singapore released a report concerning the gender pay gap in the country. While the report stated that the gender pay gap has increased slightly, it also noted that the ‘adjusted’ gender pay gap has improved as compared to the last year.
The gender pay gap in Singapore was at 16.3%, higher by 0.3% in the year 2018. In absolute figures, this means that women workers earned S$342 less in median monthly salary as compared to their male counterparts in the same job roles with the same qualification. However, the adjusted gender pay gap stood at 6%, significantly lower than what it was a year earlier. So, is this a sign of a reducing pay gap? Or is it just another fancy term given to a sticky situation?
Before moving ahead, it is crucial to understand what is meant by the gender pay gap.
What is Gender Pay Gap?
Gender Pay Gap is the difference between the wages of men and women with the same qualification, experience, expertise, job role, and doing the same amount of work. Usually, the gender pay gap refers to the median annual or monthly pay of all full-time working women compared to that of all the men in the same job and engaged for the same time. Since the difference in the median salaries of male and female workers is huge (approximately 16% for Singapore), a new term has been coined, which takes into account specific conditions that favor one gender over the other owing to the nature of work. This new term is called the ‘adjusted gender pay gap,’ and it lowers the gender pay gap by a decent percentage.
But what led to the need to have a revised and ‘adjusted’ scale to map the gender pay gap?
The need for an adjusted scale for the gender gap was realized due to several reasons. A little analysis of the country’s past and present reveals a lot about how the Singaporean job markets treat their female employees. For a quick review, here are top variables that eventually lead to the lower median pay for women in Singapore, year after year:
The difference in the Industry
Males are most likely to be in reasonably high-paying, unsafe markets such as mining, construction, and production; and to be represented by a union. Ladies, on the other hand, are most likely to be in clerical tasks and to operate in the service market.
Women in Singapore have been devalued from generations. Their quality of work is not held in the highest of the regards, and therefore, they are treated differently from men. Although Singapore has a robust legal framework, it still lacks in providing equal opportunities, income and outcomes to women.
The practice of paying lower wages to women who are pregnant has led to the origin of a phenomenon called the motherhood penalty. Moreover, a study conducted in 2019 proved that women with children are discriminated against in the job market, while men with children do not face any such issue. Motherhood also makes women opt for jobs that promise flexibility at the cost of a lower salary. Women usually choose for such positions because these jobs allow women to spend time with their children. As a result, women spend less time on the clock as compared to men, and hence gain less experience and expertise, eventually leading to lower pay in the long term.
Men who are in non-traditional jobs like teaching are often criticized but never paid less than a woman. Whereas, women who are in the same position in a more dominating job niche, like finance, are often considered weak and lacking leadership irrespective of the quality of work delivered by a woman. This ideology often makes things difficult for women who have a harder time ascending to executive ranks as compared to men with the same experience.
Do Singaporeans Feel It?
Statista has some interesting insights from an online survey conducted in November 2019, exploring the thoughts of Singaporeans on the topic of the gender pay gap. The survey was taken by over a thousand people from Singapore who responded to a straightforward question – do they think the gender pay gap in their country is fair or not?
A staggering 69% of women voted the gender pay gap as unfair, while only 49% of men think the same. 37% of men and 26% of women were neutral, while a mere 5% of women in Singapore believe that the gender pay gap is fair.
What is the Government Doing?
The government of Singapore has continuously been working towards improving the condition of women in the country. For example, the women workforce in the labor market has almost doubled to approximately 80% in 2018 in 50 years. The female employment rate is at an all-time high of 78%. Most of this hiring has happened at the professional, manager, executive, and technician level.
The government is also in the process of formulating programs to attract females into sectors that are currently being dominated by males. The government also provides support to parents who are interested in sharing caregiving responsibilities, parental leaves, and finding funds to establish flexible working arrangements.
What Does the Future Hold?
Depending on the government is not going to turn the tables overnight. The organizations of the private sector will have to open up and accept females as top bosses. Start-ups in this regard can take the lead and open-up to allow women in managerial roles. At the core, human resources will have to take the first steps. HR can help companies in analyzing the requirement of the resources and evaluating competitive pay for the position. In the process, it should be the responsibility of HR to create awareness about the need for reducing the gender pay gap and adopting diversity and inclusive practices in the organization.
Although the difference in pay in Singapore is less as compared to some developed nations, unless the organizations begin to show confidence in their female employees, the gender pay gap will remain a reality.
Cover Picture Source: bethechange