How Singapore can be an even better place for mothers

Singapore is the best country in Asia to be a mother. -- ST  PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG
Singapore is the best country in Asia to be a mother. -- ST  PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

SINGAPORE - Singapore is the best country in Asia to be a mother. The Republic came out tops in the region in an annual index released by international aid agency Save the Children and was also ranked 14th worldwide.

Its 16th annual Mothers' Index, released on Monday, rates 179 countries based on five indicators relating to maternal health, children's well-being, education, income levels and the political status of women. Norway topped the chart.

The Straits Times asked experts how Singapore can move up the ladder to be a more conducive place for mothers and their children.

Education and political participation

Mr Cynan Houghton from Save the Children: "Singapore lags behind all other top-ranked countries on these two aspects so progress on these two indicators would likely result in a rise in the rankings.

"Education is important because numerous studies show a robust relationship between years of schooling and a number of important life outcomes such as income, health and civic participation.

"When a girl is educated, her children are more likely to be healthy and well-schooled. Women's political participation is important because issues that are important to mothers and their children are more likely to surface on the national agenda when they have a voice in politics."

Ms Jolene Tan, programmes and communications senior manager of the Association of Women for Action and Research : "Negative social attitudes continue to affect women's leadership and visibility in public life.

"To improve on the measure of political participation, perhaps the government can set the tone for society by appointing more women as full ministers with their own portfolio.

"At the moment, the number of women as full Ministers in Cabinet is one out of 19 individuals." 

Family-friendly practices and services

Ms Yeo Miu Ean, president of Women Empowered for Work and Mothering: "Many educated women will want to continue to be able to use their talents and skills to fulfill their dreams and develop their careers after becoming mothers.

"However, many working mums do want to be able to give the best care to their children instead of giving them 'left over' time or energy from work. Due to the lack of flexible work arrangements, many working mums may choose to leave the workforce to care for their children.

"Providing means, such as more childcare options, for such mums to return to the workforce will reduce the feeling of opportunity cost of motherhood."

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser: "Raising a child is a serious commitment, and women may not feel that they have the time, energy, and competency to raise future-ready children.

" We need to ensure that women are not disadvantaged because they have to be more heavily involved caregiving responsibilities.

"We also need to continue to be more family-friendly in our work practices. So it is about having shared responsibilities for childrearing and ensuring work life balance, which the Nordic countries are reputedly scoring well."

jantai@sph.com.sg