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    Dec 29, 2015

    S'pore top Asian nation for gender equality

    WOMEN and men in Singapore are a little more equal now, compared with other countries. This is according to the latest Human Development Report by the United Nations.

    In its 2014 report, the Republic is ranked 13th out of 155 countries, making it the top Asian country for gender equality. Its 2013 position was 15th out of 152 countries.

    The gender inequality index measures differences between men and women in reproductive health, empowerment and labour participation rates.

    Reproductive health looks at maternal mortality and rates of teenage pregnancies, and empowerment takes into account parliamentary seats held by women and how they figure in higher education.

    A lower value in the index suggests smaller inequalities and, therefore, a better position in the ranking. Singapore's score was 0.088.

    Laura Hwang, Singapore's representative for Women's Rights to the Asean Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children, pegged the improvement to there being more women with least secondary education.

    The proportion rose from 57 per cent in 2011 to 71 per cent last year.

    She said: "This translates to women being better equipped for employment in higher wage earning capacity and the greater labour force contribution reflects this as there is a 3 per cent rise in the labour force participation rate."

    Singapore ranked 11th, overall, in the Human Development Index (HDI) at 0.912, putting it among the 49 countries with very high human development. Norway ranked first at 0.944, followed by Australia and Switzerland. Singapore performed better than South Korea, Japan and Britain in the HDI.

    Compared with other countries with a good HDI, Singapore had a lower maternal mortality and adolescent birth rate, but slightly fewer parliamentary seats held by women.

    Milorad Kovacevic, Chief Statistician at the Human Development Report Office, said that 25.3 per cent of parliamentary seats in Singapore are held by women.

    This is slightly lower than the average for all countries in the very high HDI group (26.5 per cent) but higher than in the East Asia and the Pacific region (18.7 per cent).

    Lawyer Malathi Das, president of the Singapore Council of Women's Organisations, said it was heartening to see improvements in areas such as life expectancy, women judges and better workforce participation.

    She said: "Some areas where we can improve can include measures to support and keep women in the workforce, ensuring non-economic work such as caregiving and homemaking are valued, and aligning work and school hours so working parents can better share caregiving roles."