Published today ... a continuing thought from Housewives are no Bums !
Monday March 12, 12:17 PM
Source : Channel News Asia
Housewives are worth billions
Just how much is a homemaker worth?
What they do every day — clean, cook, balance the household budget, care for the children — is worth an average of 34 per cent of the Gross National Income in places such as Europe and North America, according to research studies.
Nanyang Technological University's Economics head, Associate Professor Euston Quah, puts the figure for Singapore at about 5 per cent, or $10.2 billion, attributing this difference to the "unique" prevalence of domestic help here. In his calculations, he took into account items such as the average wages of a small-time manager and the cost of hiring a private tutor.
The Singapore housewife brigade, which numbered 360,922 in 2000, has often been relegated to the back of the nation's consciousness. This disparate brigade ranges from the lower-income, middle-aged with limited work experience to the former professionals typically in their 30s.
The absence of Budget goodies for homemakers this year prompted several Members of Parliament (MPs) to speak up for them in Parliament. Many say homemakers deserve to be treated similarly to senior citizens and NSmen.
Said West Coast Group Representation Constituency MP Ho Geok Choo: "Even a token sum (like what NSmen and senior citizens get) is a recognition that makes homemakers feel included in society."
In 2005, homemakers — especially those who left the workforce, albeit by choice, to raise their young brood — looked on with envy when the Working Mother's Child Relief was introduced to give working mothers 5- to 25-per-cent tax relief on their earned income.
In recent years, while the Government dished out goodies for specific profiles ($200 million was allocated for NSmen as a one-off cash reward last year) and this year's Budget yielded good news for senior citizens to receive up to $1,000 over four years, homemakers never had such bonuses to look forward to.
Proponents cite the impact of homemakers on the country's current and future manpower resources. Husbands can perform effectively at work when there is a stable home environment.
As the children's primary caregiver, housewives play a key role in moulding and sustaining Singapore's future pool of manpower and leadership.
What the society should be paying for is not the benefits that only households enjoy, but the positive benefits to society, said Prof Quah.
National University of Singapore sociologist Paulin Straughan links a lack of parental attention to juvenile delinquency, a problem for both the family and society.
But if homemakers rule the roost and the family is often lauded as the bedrock of society, why are they left out of the goodies?
A key reason is the lack of clarity over the work they do and how much it is worth. Its output, price and quality cannot be determined easily by market forces of demand and supply, Prof Quah said.
Also, the decision to stay home is a private "family arrangement", Madam Ho said.
TODAY reader Fanny Chan also pointed to the intangible rewards a full-time mum gets in bringing up her children and pointed to examples of career women who have successfully brought up their children, and equally, numbers of full-time mums whose kids turn out otherwise.
Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and Water Resources, and South West District Mayor Dr Amy Khor, who called for a one-off bonus for homemakers in Parliament, cautioned against "sending the wrong message" while recognising homemakers.
There is some concern that upping incentives for homemakers will encourage women to leave the workforce, which can be detrimental at times of economic expansion, talent shortage or when the authorities are trying to promote a work-life balance.
Executive director of the Singapore Human Resources Institute David Ang suggested a tiered system to commensurate with homemakers' years of contributions. This could mean a larger bonus to the older housewife with little working experience and no CPF contributions, and less for their younger counterparts who have just stopped working.
To stay-at-home mum Swee Bee Lan, 34, however, a better allocation of resources would be more helpful, especially for the better-educated and higher-skilled ones, such as part-time or even full-time employment that suits their educational qualifications and work experience.
Said the mother of two: "A lot of jobs for homemakers who want to work either do not match their qualifications or pay so little it doesn't warrant their time away from the family."
Ms Chan urged the Government to do more to make it easier for women with young children stay in the workforce.
And even if no concrete measures are taken now, what Singapore needs are more detailed studies on this.
Prof Quah pointed out: "Measuring that component — the economic value and benefits to society — is critical. We should encourage more studies to understand how we can better reward homemakers." -