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Written Answer by Mrs Josephine Teo Minister for Manpower to Parliamentary Question on Female Workforce Participation Rate




MP: Mr Ang Hin Kee


To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) what is the female workforce participation rate over the past three years; (b) what percentage of the female workforce are freelancers; (c) what are the key challenges faced by women who wish to seek employment or who prefer freelance work; and (d) what are the Ministry's plans to raise the female workforce participation rate.



  1. Our female labour force participation rate for ages 15 and over has moved up in the last ten years, from 56% in 2008 to 60% in 2018. In the past 3 years, it has remained steady at around 60%. When compared to the OECD countries, we rank well – having improved from 17th to 9th place in the decade.

  2. About 6% of our female residents in employment are self-employed1. Like most self-employed persons in Singapore, the majority or about 70% of the regularly self-employed women took on their jobs as their preferred choice and primary form of work.

  3. The challenges that women face in seeking employment are similar to what men also face, such as the lack of necessary work experience, qualifications and skills. To help more women join and stay in the workforce, the Adapt & Grow initiative offers services like job matching, training subsidies and salary support to address skills, wage or expectations mismatch. We encourage jobseekers to visit WSG’s Careers Connect or NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i)’s career centres for assistance. They can also use MyCareersFuture portal to find jobs best suited to their skills.  
  4. Compared to males, a larger proportion of women looking for jobs cited the lack of flexible work arrangements (FWAs) as a challenge. This is likely because women still tend to take on more caregiving roles. It is our key priority to support women in their family and career aspirations. MOM introduced the Tripartite Standard on FWAs to encourage more employers to offer FWAs. MOM also provides funding support, through the Work-Life Grant, of up to $105,000 per company for the sustained adoption of FWAs.
  5. Like their male counterparts, self-employed females may be subject to payment disputes and loss of income in the event of prolonged illness or injury. Since March last year, self-employed persons are able to seek help from the voluntary mediation services provided under the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM). This is part of the recent Tripartite Workgroup’s recommendations which also encourage the adoption of the Tripartite Standard on Contracting with self-employed persons that can minimise such disputes. We have also made available prolonged medical leave insurance products for the self-employed to enhance their health protection.
  6. MOM is committed to helping our women return or stay in the workforce and will continue to work with our tripartite partners to achieve this aim.  


  1. Self-employed persons (SEPs) here refer to own account workers who operate their own business without hiring any paid employees. It does not include other self-employed categories such as ‘employers’ and ‘contributing family workers’.