Old Challenges, New Strategies: Women, Work, and Family in Contemporary Asia

By Leng Leng Thang; Wei-Hsin Yu | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
THE OTHER CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER: HOMEMAKING
AS A SEQUENCING STRATEGY AND CAREER PROJECT
AMONG MARRIED CHINESE1 WOMEN IN SINGAPORE
Lai Ah Eng and Shirlena Huang

Introduction

With Singapore's female labour force participation rate increasing from 28.2 percent in 1970 to 44.3 percent in 1980, and from 53.6 percent in 1990 to 55.5 percent in 2000 (Department of Statistics, Singapore, http://www.singstat.gov.sg/keystats/hist/labour.html), women have been a visibly vital part of the rapid and fundamental economic and social transformations in Singapore since the mid-1970s. Beyond the workplace—in the classroom, shopping mall, street and spa—there are also evidences of women's direct participation and involvement in the changes that have taken place, even as the processes of change are highly variable in their class, cultural and gender impacts and are often ambivalent in the consequences they bring for women.2 A “new” Singapore woman has emerged against the backdrop of phenomenal changes in the economy and society in general, and of women's dramatic advances in economic participation in the paid labour force, education, improvements in legal status, and ideological and attitudinal shifts about women's social position.

The “new” Singapore women are vastly different from women in their mothers' time just one generation ago. These modern women are being exemplified through media reports of outstanding individuals who make substantive economic and social contributions, are

____________________
1
“Chinese” women in Singapore here refers to women of Chinese origin, not immigrant women from China. Women of other major ethnic backgrounds in Singapore include Malays, Indians and Eurasians.
2
In Asia, the ambivalent impacts of change include the increased labour force participation, the feminization of poverty, the feminization of migration; sex traffic in women and girls and the rise of the middle-class consumptionist women (see, for example Lai & Blake 1998; Sen & Stivens 1999).

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