Advocate issues clarion call for protection of vulnerable workers

Not enough is done to help low-income working mothers

Advocate issues clarion call for protection of vulnerable workers

Is enough being done in Singapore to protect its vulnerable workers?

A recent report by AWARE, a gender equality advocacy group in Singapore, found that a lack of support from the government and employers are making it increasingly harder for low-income working mothers to balance work and care.

The report, titled “Why are you not working?” found that low-income mothers bear the brunt of financial stress, as they shoulder most of their family’s caregiving needs and face penalties when they try to access, engage and stay in paid work.

To help low-income working mothers out of the poverty, AWARE recommends that the government puts in place robust employment protection for casual workers and enforceable actions against workplace discrimination.

Additionally, AWARE calls for more benefits such as free good quality formal childcare and an enhanced ComCare and Workfare Income Supplement Scheme to make low-wage work pay more.

The study’s respondents were beneficiaries of Daughters of Tomorrow (DOT), a non-profit organisation that provides employment bridging support to low-income women looking for work.

Only about one-third of the 47 mothers interviewed were in stable formal employment, meaning either working full-time or part-time with Central Provident Fund (CPF) benefits.

Many of them work as casual workers and are not protected by employment legislation because of its limited scope or incorrect classification of their contract.

Some employers also deny employees CPF and leave benefits or unlawfully sack them.

AWARE shared one example where a worker experienced pregnancy discrimination by a former employer, who dismissed her when she was in her third trimester because the employer did not want to be liable for her getting hurt at work while pregnant.

“People don’t understand how important [flexibility] is for us [as mothers],” said a respondent of the study. “When your kids are sick, your kids are sick. You just want to drop everything and just run to them. To have supportive employers is amazing.”

Corina Lim, executive director at AWARE said that relying on the “kindness of employers” is not enough to ensure that low-income working mothers have options for work.

“We need to broaden and strengthen our worker protection regime by implementing anti-discrimination legislation, extending appropriate benefits and rights to casual workers, and stricter enforcement of all worker protection obligations,” she said.



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