SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ANN): The People's Action Party's (PAP) women's wing and youth wing have called for workplace anti-discrimination laws and full flexibility for couples to share parental leave.
Women should also be allowed to freeze their eggs for non-medical reasons, the PAP team said in a joint paper released on Thursday (July 29).
The joint paper, which sets out a total of 12 recommendations aimed at improving women's development in Singapore, comes after the Government announced last September that it was embarking on a comprehensive review of issues related to women and gender equality.
The review will culminate in an upcoming White Paper that will be introduced in Parliament later this year.
In putting together the joint paper, the PAP team conducted dialogue sessions with about 1,500 people who raised issues facing women in schools, workplaces and at home. The recommendations will be submitted to the Government for its consideration in drafting the White Paper.
Give women more options to balance careers with other obligations
The paper noted that existing frameworks, such as those under the Employment Act, offer women some protection against discriminatory actions like being dismissed without cause while pregnant.
But it said more needs to be done to further reduce workplace discrimination, such as legislating the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices to allow for stronger enforcement of these practices.
The paper also recommended scaling up movements like SG Women in Tech to encourage girls and young women to enter and progress in growth sectors.
It added that the Government, organisations and employers should work together to develop support packages and networks for women who wish to re-enter the workforce and rebuild their careers after taking a break to care for their children.
Promote more equal sharing of caregiving responsibilities
The paper recommended several ways to shift the burden of caregiving in a more equitable direction while bolstering support for caregivers.
The cap on the number of days of maternity leave that can be converted to paternity leave should be removed, the paper said, adding that this will give couples the freedom to decide which parent is best suited to caring for their young children.
More financial support should be given to those caring for seniors. The paper recommended boosting the existing Home Caregiving Grant and creating a new scheme to help caregivers receiving the grant with their own retirement needs.
Under the proposed scheme, the Government would match funds contributed by families to the Central Provident Fund account of the family member performing full-time caregiver duties.
The paper also said steps should be taken to organise voluntary respite care services, raise awareness of existing support programmes and enhance long-term home-based care options for seniors.
The paper identified existing stereotypes and norms as some of the barriers to achieving greater fairness and equal respect between genders.
For schools, it recommended that the Ministry of Education conduct timely and regular updates to its sexual education curriculum to respond to current issues and trends, especially for secondary schools.
Schools should also create safe spaces for students to ask sex-related questions, it added, and steps should also be taken to equip parents with the knowledge and skills to have such conversations with their children at home.
For workplaces, the paper said there should be a tripartite effort to promote open and safe reporting of harassment as well as a zero-tolerance approach.
The paper also noted that some Singaporean women are going overseas to have their eggs frozen for non-medical reasons, which is currently banned here. It recommended that such procedures be allowed, but with a regulatory framework and conditions in place.
Other recommendations included creating a national reproductive health screening programme to help married couples make decisions and plans on starting families, as well as a network to help single mothers access support and resources. - The Straits Times/Asia News Network