More can be done for women and people with disabilities

I am heartened by the recent announcement that unwed mothers will finally get 16 weeks of maternity leave, and their children will receive a Child Development Account ("Unwed mums to get 16-week maternity leave"; April 13).

And while it is good to know that workers can be re-employed up to the age of 67 ("Re-employment age cap up from July 2017"; April 9), I am more delighted with the scrapping of the ageist provision allowing employers to cut wages by up to 10 per cent when workers turn 60.

Yet, I could not help but think that we can do more - and sooner - for women and people with disabilities.

For a First World country, we stand at No. 54 in the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2015 - behind the Philippines (7) and Laos (52).

Women still earn less than men in nearly all occupational categories by more than 10 per cent ("Five gender gaps S'pore women still face in 2015"; March 8, 2015), which results in lower lifetime earnings and Central Provident Fund savings.

There is obviously no lack of qualified women leaders, yet women held a dismal 9.5 per cent of directorships in listed companies last year.

Leaving this state of affairs to improve organically will not work, so is it time for legislation to correct this imbalance?

This is made even lower by the shorter employment years due to childbearing and caregiving.

There is obviously no lack of qualified women leaders, yet women held a dismal 9.5 per cent of directorships in listed companies last year.

Leaving this state of affairs to improve organically will not work, so is it time for legislation to correct this imbalance?

As for people with disabilities (PWDs), I am not sure what their workforce participation rate is in Singapore but I understand that there is currently no quota for the hiring of PWDs in companies.

Protection is scant, except for Article 12 of the Constitution, which guarantees all people equality, and the efforts of the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices.

Japan is one of the few countries in Asia that has a quota for the recruitment of PWDs.

Working with the deaf at Hush, a silent tea bar social enterprise I founded, I discovered that many of these PWDs have been unemployed, though they are so entrepreneurial that they do what they need with crafts and part-time work for financial sustainability.

Would such a quota help us to more expeditiously and meaningfully integrate PWDs into our society?

I am cognisant that merely legislating for diversity does not necessarily change mindsets and attitudes.

Advocacy, education and incentives will need to complement policies to bring about true inclusion.

Anthea Ong (Ms)

President,

Society for Wings;

Founding board member,

Daughters of Tomorrow

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 03, 2016, with the headline 'More can be done for women and people with disabilities'. Print Edition | Subscribe