The Straits Times
Published on Dec 14, 2012

Changing alimony laws will get women back to work


IT IS perhaps timely to relook the long-standing alimony laws to encourage more women to return to work ("Keep kids in school till 7pm so mums can go to work?"; last Friday).

In Scandinavian countries such as Sweden, alimony laws, along with other measures like extensive childcare facilities, serve to keep women in the workforce. Alimony is seldom granted except in certain circumstances where a spouse becomes financially needy upon a divorce.

This sends a strong signal to women that they are responsible for their own finances after divorce. As such, most women continue working while having a family.

In Singapore, however, the option of alimony is open to every married woman no matter how well off or highly educated she is. This safety net makes it less risky for her to quit her job to meet the needs of her family. Should her marriage fail, she can depend on alimony payment from her former husband to tide her over. Laws enacted to enforce alimony payment further strengthens the idea that staying home poses little financial risk.

Alimony laws in Singapore were forged in the 60s when most women were homemakers. The economic situation of women has improved tremendously over the years. Many are now highly educated and pursuing successful careers.

The laws need to move with the times. Access to alimony should be restricted to women from the low educational and income levels and when they could be in a dire financial situation upon divorce.

This will send a strong message, especially to highly-educated women, that staying home would no longer be a viable option for them.

Sulthan Niaz