Get more women to work to increase GDP: Better to increase pay?


Focus more on paying lower-income women more, rather than getting more women to work and longer hours?

I refer to the article “Narrowing gender gap can add S$26b to Singapore’s GDP by 2025: Report” (Channel NewsAsia, Apr 24).

It states that “More action to advance gender equality could help to grow Singapore’s gross domestic product (GDP) by an additional US$20 billion (about S$26 billion), or 5 per cent, by 2025, said a new report released on Tuesday (Apr 24).

This growth potential can be achieved mainly by increasing the number of hours worked by women and having more females employed in higher-productivity sectors, according to new research from McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), the business and economics research arm of consulting group McKinsey.”

As to “The report noted an “unusual” pattern of workforce participation in Singapore.

The gender gap in the local labour-force participation shrinks to reach parity from the ages of 25 to 29, but widens when women are in their 30s and beyond. By contrast, the gender gap in workforce participation among Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries tends to take a small dip when women are in their 30s but rises again when women enter their 40s and return to the workforce likely after starting families.

The rate of decline in Singapore’s female-to-male workforce participation ratio is also steeper than in other advanced economies, noted the report” – is this not indicative of greater discrimination against older women in Singapore, relative to the OECD countries?

With regard to “The report also noted that females in Singapore are more likely to be present in lower-paying and lower-productivity jobs that are most prone to being displaced by automation. For instance, the female-to-male ratio in clerical support jobs is 3.18, while cleaning and labouring sectors see a ratio of 1.45” – it has been argued that having a minimum wage and higher wages (particularly for the lower-income) may increase GDP.

So, given Singapore’s relatively low wages for women (probably the lowest among all developed countries) – we should try to focus more on having a minimum wage and increasing the wages of lower-income women, rather than just getting more women to work and to work longer hours.
Leong Sze Hian



About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.