The People’s Action Party (PAP) remains steadfast in its advocacy for women’s equality.
Speaking at the PAP Women’s Wing International Women’s Day Commemoration this past Saturday (Mar 4), Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said that the Party has been campaigning for “equality of women with men in all spheres” from as early as 1959.
Equality for women: a steadfast advocacy
This advocacy can be exemplified in the PAP Government’s range of measures for supporting every woman and girl’s development.
These include the landmark White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development (Mar 2022) with its 25 action plans for equality between men and women, as well as a newly-enhanced (Mar 1) Home Caregiving Grant to boost eldercare capabilities.
Also included: New laws on workplace fairness that, as DPM Wong outlined, “will be a significant step to protect women and provide them with the assurance that discrimination in the workplace will not be tolerated”.
Freeing women from caregiver stereotypes
But society still pigeonholes women into caregiver roles. Reversing this requires efforts from employers and fathers.
The doubling of paid paternity leave for fathers from 2024 onwards is a step forward.
“We hope this will enable and encourage fathers to be more involved in raising their children,” said DPM Lawrence Wong.
Attitudes towards taking paternity leave have shifted since 2013. Then, “take-up rates were very low among fathers”, DPM Wong noted.
Today, the take-up rate is slightly above 50 per cent.
“In preparing for the Budget, I did a survey in my own Ministry — I asked the young officers who are either fathers or fathers-to-be. I asked them ‘do you (take paternity leave)?’,” he detailed.
“And they were very enthusiastic, they said yes! Some not only take the full paternity leave, but they take additional leave on their own to spend more time with their children. So that is very encouraging.”
2024’s doubling of paternity leave will become mandatory eventually, that said.
With this move, the Government hopes that more working fathers will take leave to spend time with their children and family. Of course, this would also help to lessen the caregiving burden on women.
Employers can do their part too
Aside from fathers, employers can play their part too.
If you’re a boss, you might now have concerns over productivity and performance.
But generating capital is not always towards financial bottom lines. In fact, financial capital can be achieved too through less-direct means than having a new dad stay around in the office.
“I would urge all employers to move as soon as possible; don’t wait until the Government makes it mandatory before you move. Start offering additional paternity leave now,” said DPM Wong.
Offering additional paternity leave can also lead to good outcomes for the organisation.
“When employees and staff can see that their bosses are enlightened and are offering good benefits, you are more likely to be able to retain and attract your staff. So from a pro-business point of view, I think all employers should seriously consider moving on this additional paternity leave.”
Most importantly, these steps by employers and fathers can reduce the caregiving burden on women, freeing them to pursue their career aspirations outside of home.
As DPM Wong said this International Women’s Day:
“Let’s continue to stand side by side to strengthen women’s development, and get women involved in building the Singapore we want to see: a Singapore that fully values the perspectives and viewpoints of women; a Singapore that has more women in positions of leadership, in the private sector, in the public sector, including in politics; it is a Singapore where all women can live their life to the fullest.”