How Bad Is the Gender Wage Gap in Singapore?

Has Singapore's gender wage gap been improving, deteriorating or remaining stagnant? We dove into the data to find out.

Singapore ranks as one of the leading countries in the world in terms of closing the gender wage gap. In the World Economic Forum's annual global gender gap report in 2016, Singapore ranked as the 17th most equal country in terms of economic participation and opportunity out of 144 countries. This compares favorably to the US at 26th, Australia at 42nd, the UK at 53rd, Germany at 57th, Japan at 118th, Korea at 123rd, and India at 136th. However, this title might be masking the fact that the gender wage gap still exists in a real and persistent manner in the country. In fact, ValueChampion's examination of the data released by the Ministry of Manpower revealed that the gender income gap in Singapore has not improved in any way in the last 10 years.

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The Gender Wage Gap Has Not Closed At All Since 2006

According to the data released by the Ministry of Manpower, the median gross monthly income of men were about S$2,452 in 2006, about 19% higher than the median of S$2,053 for women. While this gap is still much better than what it's like in countries like Korea where men make 37% more than women, it has not at all improved in the last decade. For instance, in 2016, the median monthly income of males in Singapore was $3,991, still 18% higher than the median for females of S$3,382. This monthly wage figure includes employer CPF contributions.

Gender wage gap in Singapore has remained stagnant since 2006

Industries With The Widest Wage Gap

Digging further into the data, we found that certain industries had much wider gender income gap than the others. Namely, Health & Social Services, Manufacturing, Public Administration and Education, Information & Communications, Financial & Insurance Services and Professional Services had some of the widest income gaps in the country where men made more than S$1,000 per month more than women. In contrast, Transportation & Storage stood out as a sector where women made much more than men did.

Health & Social services industry had the widest the wage gap in Singapore

Industries With the Narrowest Wage Gap

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we also found industries that had the most equal level of wages for men and women. These tended to be Arts, Entertainment & Recreation, labor intensive industries like Agriculture, Fishing, Quarrying, Utilities and Sewerage & Waste Management (categorised under "Others") and Administrative & Support Services. It's also quite noteworthy that the sectors where women make as much as, if not more than, men tend to be low-paying. For instance, these industries' median wage ranged from around S$2,000 to S$4,000 per month, while the wide-gap industries tended to pay S$5,000 to S$6,4000 per month.

arts, etnertainment & recreation and agriculture showed the narrowest wage gap in Singapore

Industries That Improved and Deteriorated the Most

To examine whether certain industries saw bigger changes than the others, we were able to compare the median monthly wage of each genders in 2016 and 2015. In terms of industries that narrowed the wage gap by the biggest margin, we saw the biggest improvements in industries like Financial & Insurance Services, Information & Communications, and Health & Social Services, where the wage gap has always been the biggest. For instance, men in financial services made S$1,653 more per month than women in finance in 2015. By 2016, however, men made S$731 per month more than women, an improvement of almost S$900.

Financial & Insurance services industry showed the biggest improvement in wage gap

However, these improvements were offset by the widening of gender income gap in industries like Public Administration & Education and Wholesale & Retail Trade, where men's income growth continued to outpace their women counterparts'. To showcase this, men in public administration made S$1,073 every month than women. In 2016, this gap grew to S$1,277 per month.

public administration & education industry showed the worst deterioration in wage gap

Leading Doesn't Mean Complete

Sure, Singapore has been a world leader in gender equal pay for a long time. However, being a leader doesn't mean there's no room for improvement. The fact that even one of the most equal countries in the world still has a wage gap of 20% or more just means that there's still ways to go before men and women reach parity in terms of their work compensation.


^ 'Others' includes Agriculture, Fishing, Quarrying, Utilities and Sewerage & Waste Management.

Duckju Kang

Duckju (DJ) is the founder and CEO of ValueChampion. He covers the financial services industry, consumer finance products, budgeting and investing. He previously worked at hedge funds such as Tiger Asia and Cadian Capital. He graduated from Yale University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics with honors, Magna Cum Laude. His work has been featured on major international media such as CNBC, Bloomberg, CNN, the Straits Times, Today and more.