Budget debate: Budget measures have benefited women, says Rahayu

The employment rate for women in Singapore was at 73.2 per cent during the height of the pandemic in 2020. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - This year's Budget may not have singled out women as direct beneficiaries of any one scheme. But it has nonetheless had a significant impact on this group, many of whom have stepped up as "everyday heroes" during the Covid-19 crisis, noted Parliamentary Secretary for Health Rahayu Mahzam on Thursday (Feb 25).

First, many Budget measures impact sectors in which many women work, such as tourism and hospitality, she said.

In other countries, female participation in the workforce fell disproportionately during the pandemic.

But in Singapore, female participation in the workforce actually saw modest growth last year, with the employment rate for women at 73.2 per cent during the height of the pandemic.

Ms Rahayu noted that many healthcare workers are women, some of whom have taken the lead in Singapore's fight against the virus.

They include Professor Leo Yee Sin, who is executive director of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), and Associate Professor Lim Poh Lian, who is director of NCID's High Level Isolation Unit.

She also highlighted the contributions of Associate Professor Ong Biauw Chi, who chairs Sengkang General Hospital's medical board and was on the front lines of the dormitory outbreak.

"We indeed have a lot to be proud of, having our women at the forefront of this battle against the pandemic," she said.

Second, the Budget's Household Support Package has also addressed some immediate concerns about family that women may have had, Ms Rahayu noted.

"Women are often contributing to their family finances or managing their family's financial commitments in some families," she said.

"The economic situation has led to some loss of income. Financial support is necessary to help families tide over this challenging period."

Lastly, women tend to take a disproportionate share of the caregiving burden, Ms Rahayu said, adding that the topic will be brought up during the debate on the Health Ministry's budget next week.

"There has been increasing awareness about women who have spent a large part of their lives not in formal employment, but toiling to care for their families," she said.

"There have also been conversations around the uneven distribution of the caregiving load and equal opportunities for women."

She also highlighted areas in which more work can be done, such as dispelling gender bias and stereotypes to ensure that children have equal opportunities when they grow up.

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