Representation by merit, not gender quota

SINGAPORE - The Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Social and Family Development, Ms Low Yen Ling, on Tuesday defended Singapore's record of women in politics.

Compared with a decade ago, there are more women in Parliament now and Ms Low argued that it is more important to anchor political representation on meritocracy rather than impose gender quotas.

She was responding to Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC), who had cited a recent World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report which shows Singapore's relatively low ranking in terms of political empowerment.

Ms Low pointed out that of the 99 seats in the House, 25 are occupied by women. "So in terms of percentage, we are doing better compared with a decade ago. Percentage-wise, 25.4, and this compares very favourably with the Inter-Parliamentary Union of 21.4 per cent," she said. The union is the international organisation of Parliaments.

Singapore's ranking was 58th out of 136 countries this year, compared with 84th out of 130 in 2009, said Ms Low.

Ms Lim, who is chairman of the opposition Workers' Party, had asked if the Government was satisfied with the scores. She said: "While we scored fairly well, 47 out of 136 for MPs, in terms of Cabinet, we are really far down."

Singapore is ranked 125th out of 136 countries - in terms of women in ministerial positions - she noted. "Instead of having just one lady minister out of 18 currently in the last few decades, do we expect any improvement in this area?" she asked.

Currently, Ms Grace Fu, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, is the only woman Cabinet politician. But the first woman Cabinet minister is Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, who was promoted in 2009. She was defeated in the 2011 General Election.

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