The working environment in Singapore is not supportive enough for women, and as a result, many sacrifice their careers. Singapore aims to take a cue from Norway, Sweden and Denmark, where higher numbers of women in the workforce are said to equate to higher fertility rates and greater levels of happiness.
‘There is a lot of scope for us to progress further,’ National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) secretary-general Lim Swee Say said at a work-life seminar on April 27 arranged by the embassies of Norway, Sweden and Denmark in collaboration with National Trade Unions Congress, the Singaporean Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore National Employers Federation, Ministry of Manpower and the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.
The seminar, entitled “Achieving Balance Between Career and Family- the Scandinavia and Singapore experience”, was attended by 400 participants from different sectors.
Singapore and the Scandinavian countries all have ageing populations. However, in Scandinavia the relatively high birth rates mitigate the problem. Singapore’s attention has been drawn to the gender policies of the Nordic countries, including how these enables women to combine a career with having a family.
Singapore’s labour force participation rate (LFPR) for females was 55.6 per cent in June 2008 compared with 54.2 per cent in 2007. But in the Scandinavian countries, Sweden had a female LFPR of 81 per cent in 2007, while Denmark had 74.8 per cent and Norway 80 per cent.
In Scandinavia, because of public policies and programmes such as childcare facilities and a supportive corporate culture, families feel more secure and women do not need to give up their careers.
With 200 more childcare centres expected over the next five years, it seems that Singapore will follow suit.