Last of the millennials

19+ Worldview survey: Women expect to be paid less

First-year SUSS marketing student Victoria Wong says that perhaps cultural expectations make men think they have to earn more. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
First-year SUSS marketing student Victoria Wong says that perhaps cultural expectations make men think they have to earn more. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Despite years of talk about gender equality, not only is there still a gender pay gap, but young women also expect to be paid less than men.

The results of a survey of over one thousand 19-year-old Singaporeans last year show gender is a key factor that influences salary aspirations.

Of the respondents, 28 per cent expected a monthly pay of $2,500 to $3,000.

But 68 per cent of females desired salaries of less than $3,000, compared with 50 per cent of men. In contrast, 49 per cent of males expected to be paid between $3,000 and $5,000, compared with just 32 per cent of females.

According to the Ministry of Manpower's latest statistics, the median monthly salary of a woman in full-time work was 9 per cent less than a man in full-time work.

Associate Professor Randolph Tan, noting that there is scant research on salary expectations in Singapore and almost none that he is aware of on salary expectations of those who have not yet joined the labour force, said: "In general, we would expect prior expectations about asking salaries to be directly linked to future asking salaries. Where a gap already exists at the point where expectations are formed, it makes it more likely for the actual gender salary gap to persist."

"The fact that 19-year-olds display such a gender-based gap suggests that difference arises even before actual labour market experience, and are therefore not formed through first-hand experience of workplace discrimination," he said, adding that more research can be done to see if there are other cultural or socio-economic factors at work.


Randstad Singapore managing director Jaya Dass said the results were not a surprise, given that on average, men around the world still earn 20 per cent more than women.

She said: "Salary expectations are references to salary benchmarks that are mainly based on historical data which takes into account past traditional values where men were commonly the breadwinners and women were homemakers.

"Furthermore, men tend to gravitate towards science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers which command a higher average salary as the jobs require highly technical and niche skills."

She also said females are drawn to careers in soft skills, such as people management and communication.

First-year Singapore University of Social Sciences marketing student Victoria Wong said: "Perhaps cultural expectations make men think that it's their responsibility to be the main provider for their family and earn more.

"Gender shouldn't be the defining factor in deciding pay. If you're working hard and performing, you should be rewarded accordingly, whether you're male or female."

Said Ms Dass: "Those born in 1999 will soon be interviewing for their first job and it is critical to set a fair salary yardstick for themselves during the salary negotiation process.

"If we want to move towards equal pay, it is critical for females' expectations and aspirations to change. It is everyone's responsibility - men's and women's - to break social norms by creating greater awareness and acting on them."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 12, 2019, with the headline 'Women expect to be paid less'. Subscribe