“Accounting for Results on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in the ASEAN Community Vision 2025”
A very good morning. On behalf of my delegation, I would like to thank the government and people of the Republic of the Philippines for the excellent arrangements and the warm and gracious hospitality.
Madam Chair, as we embark on our journey of shared hopes and aspirations, embodied in the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, it is timely to take stock of our past efforts and renew our commitment for gender equality and women’s empowerment. We need to harness the full potential of women to build an ASEAN Community that is vibrant, resilient, dynamic and sustainable. Therefore, in the next decade, we must continue our efforts on building a more inclusive society where women are empowered and have equal opportunities to contribute to the development of our ASEAN Community.
While we celebrate women’s advancement, more needs to be done to close the gap between women and men in political representation and economic participation1. According to the UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2015, only half of working-age women participate in the labour force, compared to about three quarters of working-age men. The report also added that we have a long way to go towards equal gender representation in private and public decision-making2.
Madam Chair, please allow me to share Singapore’s experience in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Fifty years ago, as a newly independent country with no natural resources, Singapore faced much uncertainty. Unemployment was one of our leaders’ key concerns. We invested in our most valued resources – our women and men. And our efforts have borne fruit. Last year, our resident employment rate for males in the prime working ages of 25 to 54 was 92.2% and for females, 76.0%. Our employment rate for older residents, aged 55 to 64, was 80.2% for males and 52.7% for females. There are more women holding professional jobs today.
The literacy and educational profiles of our people, especially women, have also improved. Our literacy rate for males and females was 98.6% and 94.9%3 respectively in 2014. Today, more than half4 of our university graduates are women. Women are also well-represented in subjects traditionally viewed as male domains.
These improvements have contributed to a better quality of life for Singaporeans. The UN Human Development Report 20145 ranked Singapore 15th out of 152 countries on the Gender Inequality Index6. In the same Report, Singapore was ranked 9th out of 187 countries for the Human Development Index7.
Education and Training
Madam Chair, access to a balanced and well-rounded education, including STEM8 education, is key in levelling the playing field for all Singaporeans, regardless of gender.
The government set up the SkillsFuture Council last year to steer the national movement for all Singaporeans, to develop deep specialist skills and mastery in their respective fields.
The government, employers and unions also make concerted efforts to promote fair, responsible and merit-based employment practices. Singapore ratified the ILO Convention No. 100 on Equal Remuneration in 2002, reinforcing inclusive and non-discriminatory work-places for women.
Last year, the government introduced the Protection from Harassment Act9. A range of civil remedies and criminal sanctions is available to better protect both men and women, from harassment and related anti-social behaviour in the workplace and other public spaces.
Madam Chair, an inclusive society is one where women can contribute actively at all levels of society and the economy. In Singapore, women made up about 57%10 of employees in the Civil Service, comprising almost two-thirds (63.5%) of the top two categories of Civil Service positions.
The representation of women in the Singapore Parliament has also increased steadily over the years. After the recent General Election in September 2015, women now occupy 23.9% or 22 out of 9211 seats in the Singapore Parliament. This percentage exceeds the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s world average of 22.5%12.
One of our universities - the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) University – has recently appointed Dr Aline Wong as its Chancellor, making her the first woman chancellor in the educational history of Singapore13. In July this year, Brigadier-General Gan Siow Huang was the first woman combatant to be promoted to her current rank in the Singapore Armed Forces14. Both women rose to their current positions based on their own merits and capabilities.
Increasing Gender Diversity in the Boardroom
The percentage of women directorships on boards of our Singapore Stock Exchange listed companies was 8.3% in 2013. We have increased it to 9.1% in June 201515. Like many Member States, Singapore wants to increase the presence of women in the boardroom further.
In August last year, we set up a Diversity Action Committee to encourage more gender diversity in the boardroom. Using a multi-stakeholder approach, the Committee has introduced various initiatives such as raising the awareness on the business case for having more women on boards and encouraging board chairs to look beyond the usual pool of male-dominated candidates.
Madam Chair, McKinsey & Company has calculated that full gender equality would add 26 per cent or US$28 trillion to global gross domestic product in 2025. The impact of the contributions of women cannot be ignored or underestimated. Senior officials of the ASEAN Committee on Women have mapped out a new five-year work plan to enhance ASEAN women’s economic empowerment and representation in leadership positions. I am confident that with the collective efforts of ASEAN Member States, we can achieve greater gender parity and women’s empowerment in ASEAN.
1 “Women have become more empowered as economic development has proceeded. But there is still a significant gap between women and men in terms of political representation. Women are also less likely to be able to harness their full earnings capacity – they have less access than men to paid employment outside the household.”- From the United Nations (UN) Development Programme’s ASEAN Regional Assessment of MDG Achievement and Post-2015 Development Priorities, p 4. The final report has been endorsed by relevant sectoral bodies. It will be submitted to the 27th ASEAN Summit (scheduled for 18-22 Nov) for notation.
2 UN MDG Report 2015, page 8. http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/2015_MDG_Report/pdf/MDG%202015%20rev%20(July%201).pdf
3 Source: https://www.singstat.gov.sg/find-data/search-by-theme/population/education-language-spoken-and-literacy/latest-data#18.
4 51.6% - statistics as of 2013.
5 http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/human-development-report-2014 (page 172).
6 The Gender Inequality Index is a composite index that measures the inequality between female and male achievements in 3 dimensions – reproductive health, empowerment and labour market. It ranges from 0, which indicates that women and men fare equally, to 1, which indicates that women fare as poorly as possible in all measured dimensions. Singapore’s score was 0.090.
7 The Human Development Index is a summary measure of average achievement in key dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and having a decent standard of living.
8 Science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
10 Figure as of December 2014.
11 Includes Elected Members of Parliament (MPs), Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) but excludes the Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) who will be nominated after Parliament opens in January 2016.
12 Both houses combined as of 1 September 2015 - http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/world.htm.