SINGAPORE: Law and Foreign Minister K Shanmugam said there is a need to look at the factors that are holding women back from doing well in the corporate sector to see what can be done.
Mr Shanmugam was speaking to Channel NewsAsia on Saturday after a closed—door women’s dialogue in his constituency Nee Soon GRC, in the lead—up to International Women’s Day on 8 March.
He said while the labour force participation rate for women in Singapore is good, the board representation of women is "very low", at seven per cent. In addition, he noted the representation of women in executive committees in Singapore companies is 15 per cent.
He said women have done well in the professional sectors such as law and medicine, but their performance in the corporate sector has been held back by the "usual factors", such as having to juggle family and work as well as gender bias.
He said these issues which hold women back from reaching the very top are particularly relevant.
A resident suggested lowering the foreign domestic levy for more households — other than those with dependents — as a way to encourage more women to return to the workforce.
Mr Shanmugam said: "We want to reduce the growth of foreign workers, which would include house help, maids. If we liberalise this sector, the numbers will go up, and the overall number of foreigners here, which includes nurses, construction workers, maids — we have about 200,000 maids in Singapore — that number will go up as well.
"I think it’s a conversation we have to have with Singaporeans to say in which areas it can go up, by how much and yet take into account the overall public sentiment that you want foreign worker participation to go down."
In its recent Budget announcement, the government reduced the levy to S$120, from S$170, for families with dependents such as children and elderly parents.
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