9 Mar 2007

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 are 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!

8th March 2007
Think Centre

Posted by Charles Tan
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