By Yang Huiwen
SINGAPORE has made great strides in equalising opportunities for women in the workforce, but the challenge lies in striking a balance between family and career, said Senior Minister of State Grace Fu.
Ms Fu told a seminar yesterday that women face a difficult choice, with some choosing to pursue one aspect at the expense of the other.
'Some women are increasingly delaying or forsaking marriage as a result of greater financial independence and career progression,' she said.
The minister said Singapore's total fertility rate has generally declined over the past 20 years, with that of women aged between 25 and 29 years registering the sharpest drop.
The birth rate is down from 110 births per 1,000 women in 2000 to just 79 births last year - 'a worrying social trend' which needs to be arrested, she said.
'Women do have to recognise that we have to balance and adjust our priorities along the way. At certain points in time, we may have to put family ahead and take a slower pace at work, while at other points, career can take greater priority if we have good family support.'
Ms Fu, who is married with three sons, said: 'I have done so myself, opting for a job that is more desk-bound when my children were younger and taking a pay cut along the way.'
The seminar, titled Women As An Economic Force, also heard from speakers who stressed the need for cooperation from the Government, businesses, as well as family members in order for women to succeed in both career and family life.
Dr Brigit Helms, head of advisory services for the International Finance Corporation in Indonesia, said her spouse has been a stay-at-home dad for the past nine years, allowing her to focus on her work and move up the career ladder.
But the economic participation and rights of women vary across different countries and continents, meaning women face different challenges, said Ms Christine Shields, head of country risk research at Standard Chartered Bank, which organised the seminar.
In Africa, the level of equality is mixed and most women still work in low-paid sectors, while in the Middle East, women tend to have very poor legal rights.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.