Singapore’s leading gender equality organisation AWARE on Wednesday (17 Feb) expressed concern regarding the “disappointing dearth of measures” targeted specifically at uplifting and supporting caregivers in Budget 2021.

While AWARE’s Executive Director Corinna Lim said that the Government’s announcement of salary increases for nurses and healthcare workers is a positive move, AWARE “wished to see more measures to support unpaid, informal caregivers, especially family caregivers to the elderly”.

“Given the announced 2021 theme of ‘Celebrating SG Women’, the ongoing gender equality review and Singapore’s rapidly ageing population, we had hoped that this year’s budget would acknowledge the unequal road to success and security for women, whose vulnerabilities are well-documented,” she said.

AWARE’s research in 2019, which looked at eldercare’s negative impact on women’s finances, found that many respondents had experienced a change in employment status due to their care responsibilities.

This group of women suffered an average 63 per cent loss in income, or an average annual loss of S$56,877.

Ms Lim also urged the Government to draw out a plan for the country to develop healthcare and social infrastructure to meet the needs of the elderly and their caregivers.

“This is not news — every year that passes brings Singapore closer to an eldercare emergency,” she said.

AWARE lauded the Government’s intention to expand the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) beyond its current sectors and the creation of a sustainable Green Plan 2030 budget.

However, Ms Lim stated that universal application of PWM should be a more immediate goal.

“We hope that this expansion can be rolled out at a quicker pace, especially to women-concentrated sectors such as the long-term care and social care sectors,” she said.

In its Budget submission last month, AWARE urged policy-makers to adopt a gender-sensitive approach, proposing the introduction of a state-funded income for caregivers, mandatory paid eldercare leave and investment in long-term care infrastructure, among other measures.

“We know that the pandemic has shaken up low-income workers’ livelihoods, so let’s assure them of a living wage and reduce their reliance on the vagaries of global economic forces,” said Ms Lim.

AWARE said it looks forward to more gender-specific concerns being addressed by various ministries in the Committee of Supply debates.

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