Share This

Friday, 8 May 2015

Singapore is Asia's best place to be mum, peoples back to being courteous & gracious

A class for mothers carrying babies here. Singapore was ranked ahead of the next-best Asian countries South Korea and Japan in the latest Mothers' Index. This rates countries based on five indicators relating to maternal health, children's well-being, education, income levels and the political status of women. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Singapore is the best country in Asia to be a mother.

The Republic came out tops in the region in an annual index released by international aid agency Save the Children and was also ranked 14th worldwide, well ahead of the next-best Asian countries South Korea and Japan in 30th and 32nd spots.

Singapore moved up from 15th spot worldwide last year but short of its 2002 best of 13th.

Norway topped the international chart, beating last year's winner Finland, while the United States was 33rd.

The 16th annual Mothers' Index, released on Monday, rates 179 countries based on five indicators relating to maternal health, children's well-being, education, income levels and the political status of women.

Singaporean women have a one in 13,900 risk of dying in childbirth while the infant mortality rate here is 2.8 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Gross national income per capita is US$54,040 (S$72,000). For these three measures, Singapore was placed among the top 10 countries globally.

But its ranking was pulled down by weaker performance in the educational and political arenas.

Children are expected to complete about 15.4 years of formal schooling here and a quarter of seats in the government are held by women.

In comparison, Norway recorded a national income of US$102,610. Political participation of its women is close to 40 per cent and children are expected to finish 17.5 years of school.

The US' poor showing is partly due to its high risk for maternal death - one in 1,800, the worst level in any developed country.

Ms Sylvia Choo, director of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Women's Development Secretariat, said Singapore has done well because of its strong investment in education and in ensuring that medical care remains accessible.

Since 2000, Singapore has cut its risk of maternal death by over 75 per cent, from one in 3,500 to one in 13,900.

Other experts say the findings, while commendable, should not be a reason for complacency.

They pointed out that the index tracks only parameters such as wealth, education and healthcare and does not take into account other pertinent issues specific to developed economies.

"It does not address the parent-friendliness of workplace policies, culture and practice," said Ms Jolene Tan from the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware). "Some countries ranked lower on the index such as the United Kingdom and Ireland have much more generous parental leave than Singapore.

"It also doesn't consider security of employment. A mother who returns from maternity leave to find her position terminated has little recourse in Singapore, but she can invoke legal protection such as unfair dismissal claims in jurisdictions such as Canada, the UK and Ireland - all ranked less highly in this report."

Save the Children's chief executive Carolyn Miles said the data confirmed that a country's economic wealth is not the sole factor leading to maternal happiness, but also that policies must be put in place to support mothers.

In the case of Norway, "they do have wealth, but they also invest that wealth in things like mothers and children as a very high priority", said Ms Miles.

Ms Yeo Miu Ean, president of Women Empowered for Work and Mothering, said the fertility rate here remains low because some women want to avoid the dilemma of having to choose between work and children.

"They do not want to give their children the time or energy that is left over from work," she said.

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser agreed.

"Compared with the Nordic countries, we still need to catch up on gender inequality in terms of shared childcare responsibilities and work-life balance."

By Janice Tai The Straits Times/Asia News Network,

Singaporeans back to being courteous, survey shows

AFTER two years in which it seemed Singapore was becoming a less gracious country, one social barometer suggests it is back on its best behaviour.

The Singapore Kindness Move­ment (SKM), which has been releasing the annual Graciousness Index since 2008, revealed yesterday that the country scored 61 out of 100 this year, matching the highs it hit in 2010 and 2012.

It is a big jump from last year’s score of 55 and the record low of 53 in 2013.

The index measures “behaviour consistent with social standards and expectations based on the time, place and people around” and polled 1,850 people, including foreigners, between last December and February.

SKM general secretary Dr William Wan said: “If we as a nation continue this positive trend, kindness and graciousness can become part of our norms and national identity.”

He added that more stories of kindness were being reported on social media, while mainstream media had been highlighting disaster relief efforts.

Scores for people’s experience and perception of graciousness told different stories in the index.

They were asked if they had received, done or witnessed “a random act of kindness” in the six months before they were polled.

Scores in this component fell but were offset by improvements in the perception ratings, with respondents rating themselves and others higher when it came to being considerate, courteous and showing appreciation.

About 44% polled felt Singapore had become more gracious, up from 28% last year.

Asked who was responsible for making Singapore a gracious place to live in, more than seven in 10 respondents pointed to the Government, while six in 10 said themselves.

Dr Wan said the Education Ministry had an important role in fostering character development.

“I’d like to see 80% or 90% of people saying ‘kindness can start with me’,” he said. “We must take ownership.”

The SKM also studied attitudes towards neighbourliness and parenting.

Over 40% wanted more neighbourliness in their communities but among this group, fear and awkwardness were cited as stumbling blocks.

Nearly six in 10 respondents, including non-parents, felt parents did not lead by example when it came to being gracious.

Senior marketing manager Joyce Teng, 53, agreed that it was important for parents to be good role models.

Her daughter Emily founded Blessings in a Bag, which sends donated clothes and school supplies to the needy in Asia.

Teng said: “Instilling the qualities of kindness and giving is our responsibility as parents. I’m proud to see that Emily is now leading by example.” — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

How can Singapore improve its graciousness? Chief of Singapore Kindness Movement has some tips
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 6 May 2015

Singapore scored 61 out of 100 in the latest Graciousness Index released on Tuesday. The Straits Times asked Dr William Wan, general secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement what areas Singaporeans can improve in.

Public debate - It appears to me that we have not learned to engage each other in real constructive debate. In choosing our sides of an argument, we neglect to listen and seem unable to consider viewpoints that run contrary to our own, and the next inevitability follows: name-calling, abusive statements, or worse. And to say the least, that is most ungracious! This behaviour is also not unique to the online space, but can also spill over into everyday life.

Road users - Other than giving up seats on public transport which has improved every year, every other behaviour related to transport or road usage falls below 6. Our partners like the Land Transport Authority and the public transport organisations have now taken the lead in continuing to encourage more improvement in public transport behaviour, and we have gladly taken a supportive back seat.

Our plans going forward include seeking out partnerships with bodies or associations dealing with private road users such as motorists, cyclists, pedestrians.

Cleanliness/environment - We should treat our shared public spaces (our nation!) in the same way we treat our own homes. It's not just about litter, it can even be as basic as the unhygienic scraps we tend to leave behind at hawker centre tables. We wouldn't do that in our own homes, would we? Even if we had a domestic helper, we would ensure that the mess is cleaned up immediately.

And when asked what is one area that could help Singapore make a big improvement in its graciousness index score?

Neighbourliness - While our findings are quite positive about the current state, we also see the desire for more neighbourliness, but some uncertainty, fear or awkwardness on how to get started. If we live in comfortable and positive neighbourhood environments, it will be just so much more pleasant for us. And we will take that positivity and pleasantness to other people in other shared public spaces.

The Graciousness Index has continued to move up, from 53 in 2013 to 55 in 2014, and to 61 in 2015. This year’s rise is led by a growing sense of positive perceptions about kindness and graciousness in Singapore, with respondents rating both themselves and others higher when it comes to being considerate, courteous and showing appreciation. Read more: