More than respect for the rights of women

Posted by Sinapan Samydorai under Editorial on 7 March 2007

8th March 2007, International Women's Day, Think Centre calls for a fairer and just treatment of all women, especially single mothers and venerable domestic workers.

International Women's Day message

More than respect for the rights of women

Central to human rights is the concept of equal treatment. Human rights laws are based on the premise that everyone is equal. In particular it means that no-one should be discriminated against on the basis of gender, race, religion or disability.

This International Women's Day 2007, Think Centre poses the following questions to Singaporeans:

- Is there a Fair Deal for all Women Workers?

After 42 years of independence and ratification of the CEDAW in 1995, women's pay is still nearly 30% lower than men's in Singapore. This persistent injustice prevents women in our society from reaching their full potential, and contributes to poverty in old age for many women who have worked hard all their lives.

It is unacceptable in a first-world country that there is a pay gap between men and women performing equivalent work. It is time for the "Equality Act" and a "Living Wage Act" so that all women are respect and are not force to work at old age. There should be no hiding places in Singapore for such blatant discrimination.

- Is Maternity Leave a right not to be bargained or subjugated with?

We should address the problem of families headed by single mothers without discrimination. It is blatant discrimination and violation of both international labour rights and CEDAW, by requiring that single mothers must marry the child's father within three months of the birth to qualify for the 12 weeks maternity leave.

All working women regardless of their marital status should have the right to 12 weeks maternity leave - why is there a criteria of marriage? In practice, single mothers are not entitled to maternity leave and only married mothers were entitled to maternity leave.

- Are conservative mind-sets and practices impairing governemnt policies?

With high divorce rate and no babies in sight - why is the government enforcing such conservative practices? For example, requiring young citizens to get married before they qualify to buy a HDB flat. This only encourages materialism and consumerism. Thus, many young couples get married to qualify for the flat but their materialistic and consumeristic lifestyle does not encourage babies.

- Is there enough respect and recognition for female foreign domestic workers?

Singapore should recognize domestic work under labour law and provide adequate protection for all domestic workers. There is pay inequality and discrimination based on nationality or country of origin. Under the labour law all workers are to be paid their salary monthly or forthnightly. But there is a loophole as domestic work is not recognized under Singapore's labour law.

As such, Think Centre calls on the tripartism of government, employers and unions to:

- ensure all women workers get fair treatment and equal pay at work

- developed an equal pay strategy to challenge pay discrimination

- ensure equal treatment for all women workers

- fair and just treatment of all single women who supporting themselves and their child, even ageing parents

- address the need for fairness in pay schemes, provide quality part-time work and greater support for working parents

Let us remake Singapore not only into a global vibrant city, but also an open and inclusive society which is more caring towards expectant females, single mothers and aged women. Together, we can do more than respect for the rights of women!

8 March 2007
Think Centre


More than a million workers, two thirds of them low paid women will benefit from a rise in the National Minimum Wage from 5.35 to 5.52 an hour from October. The minimum wage has gone up by almost 30% more than inflation since it was introduced in 1999, with the number of jobs increasing by almost 2m in the same time. Since October last year the minimum wage for adults, combined with Working Tax credits and other benefits, has guaranteed an income of at least 268 a week for families with one child and one full-time worker.

Sources and Relevant Links:

Labourstart International Women's Day

OHCHR CEDAW - Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

UN WomenWatch Information: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination

Think Centre Children's Rights: Equal Rights and Equal Opportunities?

Think Centre ILO Declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work

Singstat This trend of narrowing gender wage
- the gap is already evident among the professional and technical workers

Women earn 72% of what men earn and there has been no narrowing of gap between 2001 and 2004.

PayScale Singapore: Median Salary by Gender 3/2/2007

Think Centre Tradition is no excuse for discrimination

Think Centre 8 March is International Women's Day

UN International Women's Day 2006: Looking Back

UN International Women's Day 2007: Impunity for Violence against Women and Girls

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