Empowering mature women for security and financial independence
The programme consists of a specially-tailored curriculum covering five modules in 20 weekly sessions of three hours each. Through these sessions, participants are taught about savings and planning for the long term, budgeting and investing.
Singapore is an aging society. Today, 1 out of 12 is above age 65. By Year 2030, there will be 1 out of 5 making Singapore one of the fastest ageing countries in the world with more than 900,000 residents aged 65 years old and above, of which 55% of the older adults are women, according to the "Report on the Aging Population" by the Ministry of Community of Development, Youth and Sports conducted in 2006. The life expectancy of women is also generally higher than men at 86 years of age old compared to 82.
National statistics have also shown that 44.5% of women in Singapore are economically inactive or having unremunerated work at home to nurture and care for their families, which means that close to half of the women population in Singapore is not able to rely on savings in their Central Provident Fund - Singapore's national social security compulsory savings plan which is tied to employment income. The current cohort of women aged above 40 years has mostly below secondary education which also marginalises them in a skilled-oriented labour market.
Vulnerability of the older women in Singapore is heightened by their longevity, lower education levels, lack of formal employment and higher morbidity and disability in their frail ages. There is a high risk that they will not be able to take care of their own needs in their old age through dependence on their children and families given the current stresses on the family support system. Further, Singapore does not have a social security system that provides for retirement pensions but focuses heavily on responsibility of individual citizens to save for their own retirement.
Hence, there is an urgency not only to equip low income, mature women with financial skills and capability, but also to build their assets and accumulate their savings to prepare for their retirement in old age.
Singapore is an aging society
To aid in the development of the programme and curriculum, a needs-assessment study was held with some 250 women in the form of focus group discussions. One of the key findings of the study was that women in the target group had well-developed saving habits but their savings were mainly set aside for their family’s needs. They tended to do little beyond saving for their children’s education emergency savings and basic insurance.
The curriculum focuses on two major areas
- Personal finance
cover topics such as savings, debt, investments and insurance among others.
- Social empowerment
aims to build the women’s capability to understand their roles and the relationship dynamics within their families; to negotiate for support among their family members; to be equipped with the appropriate knowledge in having transactions with financial institutions, and to be adequately prepared for old age.
Empowerment and the Future
The fifth module begins with the very important issue of how to make a good will and tackles the important issue of preparing for retirement. The third and fourth sessions are mostly devoted to the subject of financial planning. In many ways, the whole programme leads up to the task of composing their own financial plan.
Milestones of the Programme
Since its launch, more than 2,000 women have attended the programme and more than 6,000 have attended the introductory sessions. The participants are from the public, members of various non-profit and volunteer welfare organizations, mosques and various interest groups. The training sessions are available in English, Mandarin and Melayu.
In 2012, the programme has been adopted by the People’s Association Women’s Integration Network (PA WIN), the largest grassroots organization that reaches out to the women constituents of 102 Community Clubs through the leadership of the Women’s Executive Committees. Regionally, the programme has been adopted in 6 provinces in Indonesia and the Klang Valley of Malaysia.
The programme has a pool of more than 50 active volunteer trainers. The trainers have expertise in the areas of finance, business, accounting, psychology, social work, and education.
The programme seeks to encourage positive behavioural changes in the participants and there is an impact assessment model in place to track their financial behaviour after they have completed the programme.
In addition to comparing their pre- and post programme financial literacy scores, impact evaluations are conducted after they have completed the programme to assess if the participants are able to demonstrate positive behaviour changes to implement their action plans over 5 years and achieve their financial goals.
In 2013, an impact assessment from a study of 1,360 participants who completed the programme from August 2008 to August 2012 concluded that the programme has been effective in improving the lives of the mature women through higher financial literacy and positive financial behavior change.
started a financial plan for retirement after programme
felt more empowered on money matters
are more knowledgeable of financial products that suit their needs
started building their emergency fund at end of course