Thursday, April 19, 2007

Women at work

According to the UN's Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2007, Singapore's GDP would have increased by about US$0.7 billion (or S$1.06 billion) a year if Singapore had increased its female workforce by 10% between 2000 and 2004. Somebody has now placed a $ value on the females on this island Republic. 10% of them is worth S$1.06 billion over 5 years, or S$212 million per year. You average out the total female population over these 5 years who worked and you will easily arrive at the worth of 1 female on this island. Since I do not have the numbers (maybe someone would want to do the research?), I cannot be more specific here.

Suffice to say that a working female has a finite worth expressed in monetary terms. Of course human beings, and especially women, cannot just be measured in $ and cents. That would be demeaning at the very least. Yet the globalized world today is measured in monetary terms, the ultimate digitization of man (and women).

On the other hand, I am amused. If we threw all of our females to work to make up those numbers, then who would bear our children, who will nurture them, who will be with them? Not the maid, surely, though I can imagine that we could easily afford one? Do we want to grow an extra 0.34% of GDP at the expense of lowering even further the birth rate? What would it benefit us if we gained the whole world but lose our future sons and daughters (to borrow a wise saying from the good book)? Lest the fairer among you accuse me of being sexist, I agree with what my mother always said: "Let the female obtain as high an education as possible so that she can teach the generations that come after". You see, she never had the opportunity to study beyond Primary 3 because of World War II and the then prevailing attitude in Chinese society that women do not need too much education. She found her limitations when she eventually had 5 sons whom she wanted very much to help in their studies, but could not. So I couldn't agree more with the observation in this same study that

"the potential gains from educating women are high...because women invest more in children's health and education, the returns from educating women could exceed those for men and create and inter-generational spill-over...The key role of the mother in household affairs....means that her education and aspirations can shape a stimulating home".

My mother's sentiments exactly.

But aren't the aims of getting more women to work and reproducing future generations often not in conflict? I think it is and you don't have to look further than Singapore for proof of this. However, maximizing education for women and benefiting future generations are twin aims that harmonizes with one another. I submit that we need to cut our GDP growth but maximize women's education in order to obtain a continued future for ourselves on this tiny island of ours.

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1 comment :

Husni Elyas said...

i agree with your mother's thoughts. its definitely a beneficial thing for women to have high education and to use it in that sense.