The APAC region is beating out most of the rest of the world in advancing DEI and narrowing the gender pay gap, but Singapore lags behind the other large Asian economies - it has the highest stagnation in DEI and gender pay equality practices, according to data from the ADP Research Institute's People At Work 2023 report.
The report, which covers survey responses from Australia, China, India, and Singapore as representative of the APAC region, found that respondents in APAC were most likely to say that their companies have gotten better at closing the gender pay gap (55%) and improving DEI (58%) in the last three years.
But broken down by country, the Singapore responses are just 35% and 31% respectively. Instead, more than half the workers surveyed in the city-state feel that DEI and pay equality in their companies has stagnated or even worsened.
This is hugely problematic for a small country that relies heavily on human capital, says Yvonne Teo, Vice President of HR for ADP in APAC.
“This stagnation is concerning when compared to the rest of APAC as it suggests that Singapore-based companies, which depend heavily on human capital, have not kept up with the rest of the region with regards to inclusivity," she remarks on the findings. “It is important for businesses to address these differences, as Singapore has a multi-ethnic workforce as well as an increasingly global labour pool."
Why the gap, though? Based on the report's data, companies are carrying out all the right practices - training, awareness events, and mentoring being the most common activities and also the ones that employees find the most effective. But other reports suggest that more fundamental initiatives are lacking.
For example, a 2021 survey by the Singapore National Employers Federation and Kincentric found that over 70% of employers in Singapore don't even have a formal DEI policy, suggesting that even when DEI-positive practices are implemented, they are not well integrated into business or HR strategy.
It's an odd gap given how tight Singapore's labour market is, and especially given the influx of Gen Z employees who are more likely to notice and object to DEI lapses and gender pay gaps. On the other hand, economic uncertainty may have made DEI gaps less of an influencing factor in employees' decision to rock the boat - for now. The impact of these gaps may still show up in time to come.
As ADP's Teo pointed out, "Failing to address DEI and gender equality practices can have considerable repercussions on talent retention, as talented employees might look at greener pastures where their differences are valued."