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We earn less than Singaporean men for the same amount of work. Here's why

We earn less than Singaporean men for the same amount of work. Here's why
PHOTO: Unsplash

Always wondered if you're drawing the same salary as your male counterparts for the same amount and type of work? Well, you're probably paid less.

According to this The Straits Times article from last month, a study by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) found that the unadjusted gender pay gap rose from 16 per cent in 2002 to 16.3 per cent in 2018.

That said, the adjusted gender pay gap has narrowed from 8.8 per cent in 2002 to 6 per cent in 2018. An adjusted gender pay gap takes into account the differences in age, education, occupation, industry and the number of hours put in between the genders.

Not that the existence of a gender pay gap in Singapore should be any surprise, though. Glassdoor, a job site that also provides insight on company working cultures, released a report in March last year about how men generally earn more than women here. It used a sample of 5,096 salaries of Singaporean employees with an average age of 33 and found that:

  • Singaporean men earn an average base pay of $71,631 per year
  • Singaporean women earn an average base pay of $61,653 per year
  • This amounts to a difference of $9,978 in base pay a year-a 12.8 per cent gap
  • So for every dollar a man here earns, a woman here gets 87 cents


According to the Glassdoor report, some of the reasons for this gender pay gap can be attributed to "differences in education and experience".

"Men and women tend to take on different paths early on in life, and the differences in their college majors play a large role in the differences in their career paths," says Dr Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor.

And 16 per cent is due to "occupational sorting".

"Men and women tend to get sorted into different positions for a variety of reasons, many of which are deeply rooted in traditional gender norms," he says. "Men tend to sort themselves into higher-paying roles such as computer programmer, while women tend to sort themselves into traditionally lower-paying roles such as nurse or teacher."


"Also, women tend to bear heavier household responsibilities, so they often require a job with more flexibility but lower pay."

His sentiments are backed by MOM in this article, which notes that higher-paying roles are still male dominated while women tend to be over-represented in roles with lower wage increases.

However, not all of the reasons can be explained.

According to the Glassdoor report, the unexplained pay gap could be attributed to factors such as workplace bias. This includes being made to do "office housework" (i.e., non-promotable work). They may also not be as skilled when it comes to pay negotiation, or may have been out of the workforce for a while (to, say, care for children).


Heard of the "pink tax"? It's when there's an extra charge on goods and services for women even though they're almost identical to those for men. And it also exists in Singapore.

A separate article in The Straits Times from last year highlighted this phenomenon, and it's way more rampant than you might think. For example, a razor for men costs about $1 each ($6.40 for a pack of six), half the price of a razor for women, which costs about $2 each ($6.40 for a pack of three).

A razor kit for women costs $13.15 on Redmart, while a similar razor kit from the same brand for men costs $10.90. And a shave gel for sensitive skin, which includes aloe vera in variations for both genders, costs $10.80 for men at local drugstores but is $11.90 under a different range for women.

The article also noted that women pay 50 cents more to get their blouses laundered at the dry-cleaners, and that one laundry service charges a dollar more to dry-clean blouses compared with men's shirts.


However, Associate Professor Ang Swee Hoon from the National University of Singapore's Business School explained that prices can vary for near-identical items because of the differences in demand and supply.

"The revenue generated from women's razors will be less than that from men's razors, so the manufacturer has to make up for this lower turnover through differentiated pricing," he was quoted as saying.

In other words, since we don't shave every day like men do, we spend less on razors. As such, businesses make up for the "loss" by marking up the prices of goods marketed to us.

But is it right for us to be paying more for products labelled "for women", especially when we generally earn less across the board? And if not, what can we do to eradicate this gender-based price discrimination?

Pondering over your answer? Read on to check out pay gap stats in Singapore while you're at it.


ValueChampion, a consumer research firm, also released a report earlier this year about the gender pay gap in Singapore. It found that while women make up 77 per cent of the health and social services industry, they represent just 51 per cent of the employees that earn more than $7,000 a month. In fact, they also represent 85 per cent of the employees earning less than $2,000 a month.


The same report released the statistics on industries with a smaller gender pay gap.


It should however be noted that women make up just 24 per cent of the transportation and storage industry, and 26 per cent of the construction industry. As such, the impact of the wage advantage in these industries may be somewhat limited.

This article was first published in CLEO Singapore.

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