Singapore PM: More support for caregivers on the cards

20-Sep-2021 Intellasia | Today | 10:22 AM Print This Post

More financial help for caregivers as well as expanded respite care options for those who need a break from caregiving are on the cards to better support women here, prime minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Saturday (September 18).

The government is also looking to designate a public space to honour Singapore women, possibly by creating a garden at the Dhoby Ghaut Green park, he said in a speech marking the close of the Conversations on Singapore Women’s Development.

These series of discussions were launched in September last year to kickstart a national effort to propose ideas to tackle issues affecting women in Singapore.

Of the proposed garden, Lee said: “It will honour and celebrate the pioneering spirit and the many contributions of Singapore women. It will recognise the central role that women have played in our society and nation.”

Some 5,700 women and men took part in 160 dialogue sessions held by government, union and grassroots bodies as well as the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO), the national coordinating body for women’s organisations here.

The proposal to dedicate a public space for Singapore women was published in a report by the SCWO on Saturday.

A White Paper containing the ideas mooted during the review on women’s development will be presented to Parliament early next year.

Caregiving support

Lee acknowledged that in families, women tended to shoulder a heavier burden than men when caring for children or elderly parents.

“This can leave caregivers, particularly full-time ones, very vulnerable. Many participants in the conversations felt strongly that this was unfair,” he said.

Since its launch two years ago, the Home Caregiving Grant has benefited about 34,000 recipients with care needs.

The grant gives a S$200 monthly cash payout to help families with the costs of care, such as hiring a helper.

Lee said that the Ministry of Health (MOH) was studying how to enhance the scheme to offer more help to targeted groups.

During the conversations, caregivers also said that they often had no time for themselves, and did not know where and how to seek help.

Many end up burnt out, which is not only bad for the caregiver but for the person being cared for, Lee said.

MOH is thus studying how it can expand the options for respite care, which provides short-term relief for caregivers.

This will give caregivers more choices to manage their workload and look after themselves.

The Agency for Integrated Care under MOH will continue to be the one-stop resource connecting caregivers to the support they need, Lee added.

“Everyone in the family can chip in to help lighten the burden on caregivers,” he said.

“If you have a loved one who is a caregiver, I hope you will help to share his or her load by taking on some of the caregiving duties yourselves, and financially, by topping up their CPF (Central Provident Fund savings account).”

Equal workplace opportunities

Aside from more caregiver support, Lee touched on two other priorities for women in Singapore.

First, women should have equal opportunities at the workplace as well as “real choices” between work and family commitments.

Women who need flexibility at work to care for their families could, unfortunately, feed perceptions that they are less committed to their careers, Lee said.

Some employers are also still reluctant to hire, promote or groom female employees, particularly mothers.

Sun Xueling, minister of State for Social and Family Development and a co-chair of the review, said that of the feedback received through the 160 conversations held, 37 per cent were related to having equal opportunities at the workplace.

In a survey of about 2,000 Singapore residents, more than one in four of the respondents felt that men were given preferential treatment in the areas of pay, job openings and promotions.

Referring to workplace discrimination faced by women, Lee said: “This is unjust. Singapore women are equally capable as the men.”

The government will protect women against discrimination or unfair treatment at the workplace, he said.

It will start by writing into law fair-employment guidelines developed by the government, unions and employers, as announced during his National Day Rally speech last month.

Beyond legislation, Singapore should find solutions to practical problems faced by working women. These include improving childcare arrangements for which the government has provided heavy subsidies, he said.

Employers, too, should do their part by offering more flexible work arrangements and making it easier for mothers to return to work after giving birth.

Protection for women

Second, Singapore must protect women from harm and harassment.

Lee expressed worry about violence against women within the family, which he said was “still not as rare as it should be”.

An inter-agency task force on family violence set up last year will soon be publishing its report, the prime minister said.

Lee also highlighted the threat that women face online through social media, where they are exposed and vulnerable to harassment, bullying, grooming or unwelcome attention.

“Many victims suffer psychological distress, or worse, are driven to self-harm. We must ensure that the online space remains safe, especially for girls and women.”

The fundamental solution to this problem is to inculcate the right values, so that men and women respect each other’s boundaries.

Parents, Lee said, must educate their children about healthy boundaries and respect. Schools must also teach students how to protect themselves online and offline.

And institutes of higher learning should be places where young men and women can feel safe.

“In our daily lives, everyone can do our part. Refuse to take part in locker-room talk. Speak out against disrespect for women and objectification of women.”

Attitudes towards women ‘not fully modernised’

Lee laid out the progress that Singapore women, who are a vital part of society, have made through the decades.

Six decades ago, only three in 10 women were literate, compared with seven in 10 men. Right now, nine in 10 young women have a post-secondary or higher education, which is on a par with men.

Compulsory schooling has levelled the playing field and helped more women enter the workforce and contribute to the economy, the prime minister said.

Through educating women, relationships between spouses have become more equal and more men are taking on domestic responsibilities.

Yet some obstacles still stand in the way of women, Lee said.

The expectations of women at home and workplaces are often unequal and, while the incidence of crimes against women is low, it is “not zero”.

Lee added: “While women’s standing in Singapore has improved greatly, societal attitudes towards women have not fully modernised.”

Junie Foo, president of SCWO, said on Saturday that it would take time for society to break out of traditional gender stereotypes and for women’s societal standing to be on the same level as men’s.

Yet there is a need to fight the stigma against men who buck traditional male stereotypes, such as those who earn less than their wives or are primary caregivers, she said.

Men should also continue taking part in discussions about gender equality.

“Gender equality cuts both ways,” Foo said.

“It is not male versus female. I don’t see it as a zero-sum game.”

https://www.malaymail.com/news/singapore/2021/09/18/singapore-pm-more-support-for-caregivers-on-the-cards/2006555

 

Category: Singapore

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