Catherine Hakim’s Preference Theory

According to British Sociologist Catherine Hakim’s Preference Theory – Women have their own preferences and make genuine choices over their participation in the labour workforce or family (Hakim 2006). This belief is guided by their preference and choice that directly led to career path & success. This essay will illustrate Hakim’s theory is not applicable to most women in the context of Singapore’s women.

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Should Hakim’s Preference theory be held, it only apply to a minority of Singapore women who are not under the duress of economical constraint, who have garnered social and financial support and are able to make their preferential work choice independently without influential by external factors. First of all, theoretically, the five historical changes which would leads to increased opportunities & options for women according to Hakim (2006), did not fully take place in Singapore.

Firstly, the contraceptive revolution did not happen in Singapore as the Government adopted an anti-natalist approach and also implemented population control policies and programs against fertility decline in late 1960s/early 1970s (Yap 2003). Family policy in Singapore has the “the aim of boosting Singapore’s labour pool and enhancing Singapore’s ‘global competitiveness” (Wong & Yeoh 2003, p. 6). Secondly, Singapore has neither an equal opportunity revolution nor any stated legislation on preferential opportunities on the fairer gender. Opportunities are based on one merits rather than equal opportunity for gender (Lyons 2000; Koh et al. 006). Nevertheless, Singapore still has a tripartite workgroup to enhance employment choice for women (Singapore Ministry of Manpower 2011c). And a tripartite declaration to ensure equal remuneration for both genders (Industrial Arbitration Court 2006). Thirdly, in Singapore there an expansion in blue-collared occupations took place instead of white collared. It happened in 1961 when Economic Development Board spearheaded the industrialization growth by luring manufacturing into Singapore’s economic transformation. Hence, there was an expansion of jobs in the manufacturing sector. In 2011, the percentage of women (56. %) in the labour force is lower compared to the men (76. 5%) (Singapore Department of Statistics 2011). Women in corporate management careers are still underrepresented. Referring to the Singapore Ministry of Manpower report chart 2, only (30. 7%) of the managers are female, in skilled occupations (2000). Furthermore, referring to chart 2, there is only about (22. 5%) are women in Engineering, IT & physical science professions, following which referring to chart 4, women held higher representation in low-wage jobs i. e. clerical, Machine operators & assemblers (Singapore Ministry of Manpower, 2000).

There might be preferences given over the male gender than the female gender during hiring & workplace. In a manpower surveyed, 41% of the male workers are inclined towards the hiring of male manager (Lee 2009). In another survey conducted by The Conference Board in 2008 on women’s leadership and development, it was realised that one third of the Singapore companies are still not emphasising on fair employment practices for women (Lee 2009). The survey “cited breaks from career, gender stereotyping and organisation cultural barriers are obstructing Asia women’s progress in an organisation (Lee 2009).

From 2006 to 2010, female gender draws lower median monthly earnings as compared to male counterparts in various industries, inferring from Table b. 2 of the yearbook of manpower statistics (Singapore Ministry of Manpower 2011a). Fourth, although there is an increment of jobs availability for secondary earners but not all jobs have friendly family hours. Some may require shift duty at night (Chia and Lin, 2008) when adoscelent kids need parent’s supervision. Finally, Hakim posits women are heterogeneous and make variable choices in their employment.

The heterogeneity of women preferences’ in employment and together with those who held priorities in life over employment have cause men to have a better advantage. However, some of traditional Malays or Indians in Singapore are noted to be homogenous. Their behaviour, i. e. dressing, lifestyle, is somewhere alike due to influence of the racial ethnic ; origin. ————————————————- ————————————————- Hakim also posits “Heterogeneity is the main cause of women’s variable responses to social engineering polices” (2006, p. 287).

However in Singapore, it is of political engineering rather than social engineering. The government formulated family planning policies that caused much reinforcement of patriarchy ; limit the choices of women (Tan, 2001). ————————————————- Singapore’s then Prime Minister – Lee Kuan Yew has lamented that the equal opportunities for both genders towards education policy and career opportunities had set off unintended consequences of Singapore women assuming dual roles as a mother and career woman which had jeopardised their traditional role of being a mother.

From Prime Minister’s speech, “We shouldn’t get our women into jobs where they cannot, at the same time, be mothers. You just can’t be doing a full-time, heavy job like that of a doctor or engineer and run a home and bring up children” (Wong & Yeoh 2003, p. 8). The Prime Minister seems to be cautious against equal opportunities and education policies for women as it might affect the origin role of mother. The dual role does give rise to role conflict situation for mothers where she would need to place less emphasise/neglect on one role. Hakim posits women’s work-lifestyle preferences in the 21st century be segregated into 3 groups.

First, the “home centred” (20%) women who prioritise family and children. Second, the “adaptive” (60%) women which juggle between both paid work and family without compromising between both. Finally, the “work-centred” (20%) women primary focus is on career rather than family (Hakim 2006). Hakim posits home-centred women “prefer not to work” (Hakim 2006, p. 288). Does this imply that all Singaporean women are adaptive and work-centred are not “home”or family orientated? Does the home centred women literally preferred not to work? Not necessary, the various influential factors will be explained further.

Cartwright pointed out “Hakim’s model is static” & does not account women makes different decisions over period (2004, p. 29). The model neglects women’s behaviour tends to change over the different life stages ; surrounding circumstances. Hakim’s model also neglected the differences of age groups ; generational workforce. Gen X ; Y under the age of 30 years old held very different attitudes, perspective ; has different views towards work orientation (Reisenwitz ; Iyer 2009; Twenge 2010) ; family (Yun 2004). Economic Do women in Singapore really have “genuine choice” ; prefer not work?

For most of the Singapore women it is actually not a matter of choice but a need to work. Singapore, where cost of monthly household expenditure was reported at $3764 in year 2007/08, both of the parents need to work in order the make the end meets. (Singapore Ministry of Trade ; Industry 2009). For the year 2010, the median income from work of residents in full-time employment is $2,710 and $700 for part time employment (Singapore Ministry of Manpower 2011b, p. 9). The absolute dollars opportunity cost of wife’s withdrawal from workforce to take care of family.

Also, the incremental opportunity costs that can be caused to the economy, for that the stay home mum may no longer go splurge shopping with the work income she once had. Some women might feel obliged and be psychologically influenced to work in order to complement the household income as her husband struggles being the sole breadwinner. The economic hard being on family is been recognised by the government. Singapore Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports introduced financial assistance scheme for children to assist low income families (2011).

Member of Parliament, Cynthia Phua, speaks out for families ; called for lower childcare and student-care fees. With monthly childcare fees and student-care services costs around $500 and $300 respectively after subsidised. Cynthia highlighted “It doesn’t make sense for a woman with three children to work in a $1,500-a-month job, when she has to fork out the same amount just to give her children quality support in her absence” (Chia and Lin, 2008). In these scenarios, it would be a matter of economically rational choice rather than women’s ideal preferences.

Culture Hakim theory is empirically based with research ; national social surveys of woman based in Britain ; Spain. The culture in Singapore is rather different. Asian culture and values drive women ; men belief. This factors play influence over women personal preference ; attitudes. Singapore is more of a collectivism society than the Spain and Britain (Alleyne 2009) individualism society. Culture factors exert the broadest and deepest influence and acts as a fundamental determinant of a person’s wants and behaviour.

There are 2 different kinds of values, First, desired values which serve as guide to our life and second, the desirable values refers to the general norms of a society and preference for one mode of behaviour over another. Although Singapore, a modern Asian country, it still hold roots of Traditional Asian values, i. e. Chinese values (Chang,Wong ; Koh 2003). Due to Asian traditional upbringing ; experiences of patriarchy, women are expected to be primary caretakers of the family and men are the breadwinner.

Member of Parliaments has heard fair share of such anecdotal stories from their resident where wives are discouraged ; forbidden to work (Chia ; Lin, 2008). Older Chinese men hold the traditional mentality that husband ought to be breadwinner while the wife is the homemaker (Chia ; Lin, 2008). Social The education system provides equal opportunities to both genders. However, statistically shown, males tend to study “hard “subjects like engineering, whereas female would study “soft “subjects like social sciences (Singapore Ministry of Manpower 2000).

Naturally, the courses of subject they undertake would determine their future occupations ; the income. “Skills/education attainment is a major reason behind occupation segregation observed between males and females that precludes discrimination. It has often been argued that females are often segregated in low paying jobs because they generally have a poorer education profile” (Singapore Ministry of Manpower 2000, p2). Societal negative perceptions ; discrimination about the capabilities of women compared to the male counterpart still persist in today employment (Singapore Ministry of Manpower 2000).

Paid maternity and childcare leave reliefs introduced by government for working mother, tends to reinforce the assumptions that women are traditional domestic homemakers (Singapore Ministry of Manpower 2010). ————————————————- Next, it not just about choice & preferences but also the opportunities available (Cartwright 2004) and the necessary required skills for employment (Singapore Ministry of Manpower 2010). NTUC Women’s Development Secretariat actively helps women in employment by providing training reskilling women so that they can secure a job (2010). ————————————————-

Hakim’s theory held true in Singapore, but it is only applies to the minority. The minority of women often come from well-off family, family which has a certain level of financial freedom that enables them to choose. Theory is likely more applicable to younger generation of women of Singapore, women who are more active in deciding their own career path. This younger generation of families, are those of which that would not hold the traditional Asian values ; beliefs to firm ground. ————————————————- Hakim’s preference theory is much of a controversy & face with criticism.

In her country, Penny wrote an utmost sarcasm criticism on her preference theory published on Britain’s New Statesman online article (2011). Across the Australia border, her theory will put to critic by journalist Spicer (2011). The creditability of preference theory is noteworthy when 4 professors have refused to support Hakim’s theory (Spicer 2011). ————————————————- Hakim preference theory argues there is no gender differentials however this strongly disputed by the findings of Anker (1997). Her no glass ceiling assumption was also contradicted by the online article in native ground (Snowdon 2011).

Again, contradicted in local context of female mid-level managers (Dimovski, skerlavaj ; Mok 2010). Next, McRae has rebutted Hakim’s posit with evidence that women’s choice does get affected by the constraints faced (2003). ————————————————- ————————————————- All in all, to conclude her theory might hold true to only a certain extent in Singapore, a country of different settings. Hakim’s preference theory applies only for women who are without the constraint of economic, tradition culture, social values and family. ———————————————— In the context of Singapore, her preference theory is too superficial. Positing that it is women’s own preferences and choices results in the gender differential is too simplified. Other factors like gender stereotyping may also cause the gender differentials in employment. (Word count: 2022 words) References Alleyne, R 2009, ‘Britain’s “me culture” is making us depressed, scientists have claimed’, The Telegraph, 06 November, viewed 12 August 2011,<http://www. telegraph. co. uk/science/science-news/6514956/Britains-me-culture-making-us-depressed. tml>. Anker, R 1997, ‘Theories of occupational segregation by sex: An overview’, International Labour Review, vol. 136, no. 3, p. 315-338, viewed 6 August 2011, <Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost>. Cartwright, S 2004, ‘Women’s decisions about paid work and family life after childbirth: A critique of the Hakim model’, Women and work: Current RMIT University Research, pp. 24-35, < http://mams. rmit. edu. au/l3ohk3aqr1nt. pdf#page=27>. Chang, W, Wong, W, & Koh, J 2003, ‘Chinese values in Singapore: Traditional and modern’, Asian Journal of Social Psychology, vol. , issue 1, pp. 5-29 ,viewed 9 August 2011, <Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost>. Chia Sue-Ann & Lin K 2008, “Wooing women back to work”, The Straits Times, 15 March, viewed 3 August 2011, <http://www. asiaone. com/Business/Office/Learn/Out%2BOf%2BOffice/Story/A1Story20080319-55231. html>. Dimovski, V, skerlavaj, M, & Mok, KM 2010, ‘Is There a ‘Glass Ceiling’ for Female Managers in Singapore Organizations? ‘, Management (18544223),vol. 5 issue 4, pp. 307-329, viewed 12 August 2011, <Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost>.

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