Women in Singapore

Women in Singapore, particularly those who have joined Singapore's workforce, are faced with balancing their traditional and modern-day roles in Singaporean society and economy. According to the book The Three Paradoxes: Working Women in Singapore written by Jean Lee S.K., Kathleen Campbell, and Audrey Chia, there are "three paradoxes" confronting and challenging the career women of Singapore. Firstly, Singapore's society expects women to become creative and prolific corporate workers who are also expected to play the role of traditional women in the household, particularly as wife and mother. Secondly, Singaporean women are confronted by the "conflict between work and family" resulting from their becoming members of the working population. Thirdly, Singapore's female managers are still fewer in number despite their rising educational level and attainments when compared to male managers.[3]

Women in Singapore
General Statistics
Maternal mortality (per 100,000)3 (2010)
Women in parliament29.4% (2020)
Women over 25 with secondary education76.6% (2021)
Women in labour force61.2% (2020)
Gender Inequality Index[1]
Value0.040 (2021)
Rank7th out of 191
Global Gender Gap Index[2]
Value0.727 (2021)

Women's rights in Singapore

Until 2007, marital rape was not legally recognized. In 2007, marital rape was recognized under certain circumstances that signaled marriage breakdown. A committee called for the repeal of any kind of marital rape immunity on 9 September 2018.[4] Marital rape has since been completely criminalised under the Criminal Law Reform Act passed on 6 May 2019.[5] The laws came into force on 1 January 2020.[6]

White Paper on Singapore Women's Development

On 20 September 2020, a virtual dialogue session involving more than 100 participants from youth and women organizations was held. Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam announced an initiative that will start in October which will include a series of engagements between the public and private sectors, as well as non-governmental organizations. The aim is to identify and tackle issues concerning women in Singapore. These will culminate in a White Paper to be issued by the Government in the first half of 2021, which will consolidate feedback and recommendations during the sessions, to be called “Conversations on Women Development”. The review was later extended to the second half of 2021 due to high demand.[7][8]

After almost a year of engagements, on 18 September 2021, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the White Paper will be presented to Parliament in early 2022 with three broad areas to be looked into, being ensuring equal workplace opportunities with legislating anti-discrimination rules and better childcare arrangements, better support for caregivers including a possible enhancement to the Home Caregiving Grant and strengthening protection for women both physically and online. In addition, a garden at Dhoby Ghaut Green will be dedicated to the women of Singapore as part of a proposal accepted from the Singapore Council of Women's Organisations to name public spaces to reflect their contributions.[9][10][11]

Business and politics

At present, there is a low presence of female participants in the political arena of Singapore. Females constitute 42% of Singapore's workforce, however, a large portion of this number occupy low-level and low-salary positions. According to the 2011 article Women's Rights Situation in Singapore, these discrepancies can be mainly attributed not to gender discrimination or gender inequality but instead to the women's lower educational qualifications and fewer job experiences than men, the women's focus and dedication to their role in family life, and the paternalistic character and Confucian temperament of Singaporean society.[12]

In relation to entrepreneurship, in 1997 Bloomberg Busineweek stated that businesswomen in Singapore can be grouped into two main categories: the entrepreneur woman who was already able to establish and raise a family, and the businesswoman who sought a substitute to the conventional "career path". An example of a successful Singaporean businesswoman was Catherine Lam, who established the company known as Fabristeel, a manufacturer of steel carts. Before launching Fabristeel in 1979, Lam worked as an accountant for 10 years. Women in Singapore who ventured into running businesses were motivated by "better education, the labor shortage", the encouragement to achieve entrepreneurial success, and the resulting "flexible lifestyle" while doing business-related roles.[13]

Another example is Lim Soo Hoon, who was Singapore's Woman of the Year in 1997. Lim was the first female Permanent Secretary of Singapore who worked for the Public Service Division of the office of the Prime Minister of Singapore. Lim held positions at Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry, then later into jobs in Singapore's Ministry of Transport, and then in the Ministry of Manpower, and Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.[14]


With regard to sexuality, BBC News reported in 2001 that Singaporean women have a more open attitude about sexual intimacy in Asia. The study reflected that 18% of the Singaporean women interviewed are "most likely to initiate" sexual activity with their personal and intimate partners.[15] This is usually met with mixed opinion, as in the case of the example in 2009 when Dr Eng Kai Er walked through Holland Village naked with Swedish exchange student Jan Phillip and was fined S$2,000 with a warning issued by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research which sponsored her undergraduate studies.[16]

During the 2000s, 2-3 out of every 10 unfaithful couple members were women. Former decades, like 1980s and 1990s, adulterous women were rare. During the 2010s decade, the statistics changed, being women half the times.[17]

During the 2010s, there was a trend among 50s and 60s years olds women getting divorced. Most of them claimed they grew tired of their husband's infidelities.[18]

See also


  1. "Human Development Report 2021/2022" (PDF). HUMAN DEVELOPMENT REPORTS. Retrieved 14 October 2022.
  2. "Global Gender Gap Report 2021" (PDF). World Economic Forum. p. 10. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  3. Lee, S.K. Jean; Campbell, Kathleen; Chia, Audrey. "The Three Paradoxes: Working Women in Singapore". postcolonialweb.org. Retrieved 2018-11-29.
  4. "Husbands may no longer have marital immunity for rape". The Straits Times. 10 September 2018. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  5. "Criminal Law Reform Bill: A look at key changes in the Penal Code". Today. 6 May 2019. Retrieved 13 June 2019.
  6. Ng, Charmaine (27 December 2019). "Watch that cigarette butt and BBQ embers - firestarters to feel more heat from the law from Jan 1". The Straits Times. Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  7. "Singapore to embark on a review of women's issues in move towards greater gender equality, leading to White Paper next year". CNA. 20 September 2020. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  8. Tham, Yuen-C (16 January 2021). "Review on women's issues in Singapore to be extended so more can participate". The Straits Times. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  9. "PM Lee Hsien Loong's speech at the Closing Session of the Conversations on Singapore Women's Development". PMO. 18 September 2021. Retrieved 23 September 2021.
  10. Ng, Michelle (18 September 2021). "Concrete proposals to tackle women's issues to be presented in early 2022: PM Lee". The Straits Times. Retrieved 23 September 2021.
  11. Abu Baker, Jalelah (18 September 2021). "Government to study views on women's issues, present 'concrete proposals' in White Paper in early 2022: PM Lee". CNA. Retrieved 23 September 2021.
  12. "Women's rights situation in Singapore" (PDF). Online Women in Politics. Women's situation. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
  13. Chang, Helen (1997-04-07). "Singapore's Women Are Minding Their Own Business". Bloomberg. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  14. "Singapore's Woman of the Year". Lumen. Winter 2007. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  15. "Singapore women 'forward in sex'". BBC News. 2001-03-12.
  16. Davie, Sandra. "A*Star scientist who walked naked through Holland Village took up two scholarships". Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  17. "Adultery: It's not just the men". The Straits Times. 15 May 2016. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  18. "Mum's had enough: more women in 50s and 60s getting divorce". The Straits Times. 19 April 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2018.

Further reading

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