Older women and continuing education

Older women and continuing education
Graduation ceremony.

SINGAPORE - According to the Singapore Department of Statistics, women are catching up with men when it comes to getting higher educational qualifications.

This is especially true for younger women: Statistics show that 76 per cent of women who were aged between 25 and 34 in 2012 had tertiary qualifications.

However, this number fell drastically to less than half for those aged 40, and the percentage fell even more, to about 20 per cent, when it came to those aged 50 and above.

Younger women, it seems, have realised that higher education pays off: In terms of material benefits, such as a good, secure job or higher salaries.

However, as the take-up rate for higher education increases, so too does the cost of not taking up continuing education rise.

This being so, can women - especially older women - really afford to not take up continuing education and risk losing their jobs to both men and their younger counterparts?

What are the barriers, and what can they do to catch up?

With Singapore heading fast towards an ageing population, supporting lifelong employability is a national priority; and a great way to achieve this is to retain and increasingly engage mature workers in professional, managerial, executive and technical (PMET) work.

However, the educational divide significantly impacts middle-aged women's chances of finding work.

With many of them having completed only secondary education, they tend to find themselves misaligned with the needs of PMET work.

This is complicated by the fact that some 40,000 to 45,000 young Singaporeans are expected to enter the job market each year, and the Ministry of Manpower estimated that about half of these job-seekers would have a diploma or better qualification by 2020.

What's more, many women - as their biological clock ticks down - often choose to give up a promising career to raise a family, planning to return to work only when the children grow up.

However, by the time they decide to return to the workforce several years later, the needs of the marketplace may have changed drastically, and they may find their skills to be less relevant than they were before.

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