Singapore’s gender pay gap (GPG) has narrowed to 6 per cent, down from 8.8 per cent in 2002, and lower compared to other developed countries like the United States (8%) and Canada (8%).
Key findings released by the republic’s Manpower Research and Statistics Department of the Ministry of Manpower and the National University of Singapore:
Occupational segregation is a key contributor to the unadjusted gender pay gap
The employment rate among women rose strongly over the past decade, and more women are now in PMET occupations. However, men continue to be over-represented in higher paying occupations and women tend to be in lower paying ones. This is “occupational segregation” and a key contributor to unadjusted GPG.
Causes of occupational segregation and initiatives to reduce it
Occupational segregation tends to occur due to inherent gender differences. For example, men and women generally have differing personality traits and skills, psychological attributes, and choices of field of study. As the median wages in male-dominated occupations have been growing faster than those in female-dominated occupations, occupational segregation’s significance in the unadjusted GPG has also grown over time.
Occupational segregation can persist when women are deterred from studying in “traditionally male-dominated” fields or joining the workforce in such sectors. To dispel notions of “traditionally male jobs”, organisations in such sectors have started mentorship drives, networking, and career talks for women. This also enables the sector to tap on a wider pool of talent. For instance, more women are increasingly being recognised for their work in the technology sector, such as through the Singapore Computer Society’s (SCS) various awards, honorary fellowships and special interest groups. The Association of Information Security Professionals makes concerted efforts to conduct career talks at girls-only schools to attract young women to join the cybersecurity industry.
Occupational segregation can also occur due to differing value placed on workplace flexibility, i.e. women preferring jobs that offer more flexibility. In these instances, the Government supports companies to implement flexible work arrangements (FWAs) through initiatives like the Work-Life Grant. These allow men and women to meet both work aspirations and family/childcare responsibilities in the occupation of their choice.
Factors contributing to adjusted gender pay gap
Women still earn less than men after adjustment. This could be due to factors that the model is unable to measure, such as the length of work experience and job preferences that impact wages. Due to social norms regarding gender roles within families, women typically play the primary role in caregiving such as caring for children and the elderly. This may have reduced their time and experience at work, leading to lags in career progression and hence earnings. The Government’s support for more shared care-giving responsibilities between men and women – such as through shared parental leave, and promotion of family-friendly workplace practices (e.g. Tripartite Standards on FWAs and Unpaid Leave for Unexpected Care Needs) – aims to reduce the effects of such social norms.
The GPG is a common measure for gender income inequality, by computing the difference between the median incomes of men and women. The adjusted GPG, however, compares the incomes of men and women with similar characteristics such as industry, occupation, age, and education. It is therefore a better measure of whether men and women are paid equally for doing similar work. It also provides insight into the factors that contribute to the pay gap, which facilitates informed decision-making within the Government to reduce it.