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Survey: 6 In 10 Working Mothers In Southeast Asia Struggle With Balancing Work And Family Commitments

68 per cent of working mothers in Southeast Asia believe that remote and flexible arrangements will enhance their chances of achieving work-life balance and career advancement and 44 per cent of those surveyed wish more people understood the difficulties they face as a working mother. 

KUALA LUMPUR, May 10 – Working mothers in Southeast Asia are increasingly having to learn time management techniques to balance professional and personal demands, according to a survey from software company Milieu Insight.

In conjunction with Mother’s Day, Milieu Insight has published insights from its latest study on Southeast Asian mothers at work. 

While women in the workforce have received countless opportunities, they face significant challenges.

According to a McKinsey & Company report, women contribute about 36 per cent of Asia’s GDP, in line with the global average but there are still opportunities for women to raise their economic contribution in the region. 

The quantitative study conducted by Milieu Insight’s proprietary survey community polls 3,000 working mothers across Southeast Asia covering Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, The Philippines and Thailand. 

“While women have contributed to Southeast Asia’s growth, their share of managerial positions remains below parity.

“Our study highlights the pressing challenges by working Southeast Asian women today, including the delicate balance between work and family commitments, self-care amidst hectic schedules, and the burden of guilt when prioritizing professional responsibilities,” said Juda Kanaprach, co-founder and chief commercial officer of Milieu Insight

“However, amidst these obstacles, it’s heartening to know that working mothers in Asia employ various strategies to navigate the complexities of their personal and professional lives.

“As we celebrate the pivotal role of mothers in our society this Mother’s Day, let us acknowledge and address their strength and sacrifices.” 

Motherhood Becomes A Disruption To Employment 

Working mothers in Southeast Asia are finding it tough to balance it all despite the world of work changing.

Six in 10 women in Southeast Asia struggle to find adequate time to manage both work and family commitments. 

Similarly, in comparison with other countries, data shows American mothers combine work and family in different ways but when it comes to employment, motherhood becomes a disruption.

It takes over a decade for mothers’ full-time employment rate to return to 50 per cent. 

Along with these challenges is the overwhelming burden of self-care due to the relentless demands of work and home life. 

Forty-two per cent of Singaporeans and Vietnamese women report finding it increasingly difficult to prioritise their own wellbeing while juggling the competing demands of work and home, exceeding the regional average of 31 per cent. 

The study also showed that 44 per cent of those surveyed wish more people understood the difficulties they face as a working mother. 

53 Per Cent Of Working Mothers Feel Neutral, Dissatisfied With Country’s Maternity Leave Policy 

The lack of employee wellbeing policies and practices in Southeast Asia to support a healthy work-life balance is much-needed, with 53 per cent of working mothers surveyed saying they feel neutral or dissatisfied with their country’s maternity leave policy. 

Providing adequate resources for self care and promoting a culture of wellness can help alleviate the strain on working mothers and contribute to their overall job satisfaction and productivity. 

One in five working mothers across Southeast Asia feel that being a mother has had an adverse impact on their career, with the highest percentage being in Singapore at 40 per cent. 

This trend may correlate with the fact that 66 per cent of working mothers in the region shoulder significant household responsibilities, including childcare, cleaning, and cooking. 

While Singapore boasts a relatively lower percentage of women solely responsible for household maintenance (19 per cent), the stark contrast is evident in Indonesia, where 43 per cent of women shoulder this responsibility alone. 

68 Per Cent Of Working Mothers Believe Remote Work, Flexi Arrangements Would Enhance Work-Life Balance, Career Growth

Fifty-five per cent of working mothers in Southeast Asia currently adopt innovative time management techniques to navigate the intricacies of work-life integration. 

With Singapore implementing new flexi-work arrangement guidelines including a 4-day work week option starting from December 1 2024, this new approach offers a progressive means towards flexibility at work, empowering mothers to take more control over their schedules. 

Sixty-eight per cent of working mothers in Southeast Asia believe remote work and flexible arrangements would enhance work-life balance and career growth, with the majority in Singapore (75 per cent) and the Philippines (77 per cent) sharing this sentiment. 

The Need For Extended Leave Without Stigma 

About one in two working mothers in Southeast Asia have had to extend maternity leave or use unpaid leave to care for their children, with Vietnam having the highest percentage (59 per cent). 

Fifty-four per cent of working mothers in Singapore wish for extended leave policies to better support working mothers despite paid maternity leave being capped at 16 weeks in Singapore. 

However, there is a lot of stigma around mothers who take time away from work with some companies penalising parents who take maternity leave. 

Milieu Insight research suggests that with inclusivity, flexibility, and support, workplaces can create a nurturing environment where women could excel in their professional roles while fulfilling their duties as mothers. 

The study, conducted via Milieu Insight’s proprietary survey community, offers a comprehensive understanding of Southeast Asian women at work, highlighting key insights and behaviors. Field work was carried out from April 2 to April 12, 2024. 

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