S’pore women earn 14.3% less than men but gap narrowing, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

S’pore women earn 14.3% less than men but gap narrowing

Singapore has made strides in raising employment opportunities for women, though they are still earning less than men.

The median income for women working here was 14.3 per cent less than that for men in 2023, a narrower gap than the 16.3 per cent in 2018, according to the latest Ministry of Manpower (MOM) data.

The gender pay gap refers to the difference in the median income for female and male employees expressed as a percentage of the median income of male employees. For MOM’s study, the incomes of employees aged 25 to 54 who are Singaporean or permanent residents and working full-time were analysed.

Singapore’s pay gap was slightly worse than that across Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, which was 12.1 per cent in 2022. But the OECD data also shows the Republic did better than countries like the United States (17 per cent in 2022), Britain (14.5 per cent) and Japan (21.3 per cent).

Differences in occupation between men and women remained the key factor influencing the gender pay gap in 2023, among the various factors examined, said the ministry. One way this comes into play is where men are overrepresented in higher-paying occupations.

However, from 2018 to 2023, the gender pay gap narrowed as the occupational profile of females improved more than that of men, said MOM in an infographic released on its website on March 4.

A total of 75 per cent of women in 2023 were working in professional, managerial, executive and technician (PMET) jobs, an 8.8 percentage point increase from 2018. On the other hand, the proportion of men in PMET jobs increased by 6.3 percentage points in the same period to 79.4 per cent.

Besides occupation, other labour market factors that contributed to the gender pay gap are differences in industries and weekly working hours. Human capital factors of age and education play a much smaller role.

After removing the effects of occupation and other labour market and human capital factors, Singapore’s adjusted gender pay gap in 2023 was 6 per cent, down from 6.7 per cent in 2018.

This means a woman could be working in the same job as her male colleague, in the same industry, at the same age and education level, but for lower pay.

An earlier 2020 report on the gender pay gap had stated the adjusted pay gap in 2018 as 6 per cent. MOM explained that the model to calculate this has been revised using the latest occupational classification, SSOC 2020.

The pay gap that remained after the adjustment could reflect the effects of parenthood; caregiving responsibilities; and unmeasured employment characteristics such as work experience, firm type, and job scope; as well as discrimination, said MOM’s report.

Mr Samuel Sobrielo, the Institute for Human Resource Professionals’ deputy director for professional practices and community, said career breaks may be one reason the pay gap persists.

“Fundamentally, pay must be a function of experience, skills, performance and the value an individual can bring to the job – factors which can be attributable to time spent in the workforce,” he said.

“With the likelihood of women assuming the primary caregiving responsibilities, it may necessitate them taking breaks from employment, hence ‘delaying’ work experience, which may consequently impact the salary.”

Ms Betul Genc, senior vice-president and head of Asean at recruitment firm Adecco, said: “Even though we observe less and less practice in the market, it is worthwhile to acknowledge that some organisations might offer men higher starting salaries to compensate for national service, which in the long run creates the pay gap.”

A recent survey suggests some women feel they are not being compensated fairly for work.

Some 37 per cent of women polled felt that a gender pay gap exists in Singapore, said a report put out in March by job search platform Indeed.