Employment Issues of Single Mothers
School: Hwa Chong Institution
Group Members: Celeste Tong Pei Lu
Lim Kai Ting, Elaine
Ong Yin Meng
Shiu Wing Tung, Nicole
Word Count: 2861
We would like to thank our supervising tutor, Mrs Sheila Chia, for her constant guidance, patience and support. Her valuable and constructive feedback during planning and organization truly helped us in our project. If not for her, this project would not have been possible.
This project focuses on the unemployment of single mothers. With the aim of increasing employment opportunities, we present several ideas to maximise the potential of social enterprises by adapting and customising measures from Business Women Network.
Chapter 1: A Grasp in the Dark
1.1 Significance of Employment Issues of Single Mothers 6
1.2 Shortcomings of AWARE in Addressing Employment Issues of Single Mothers 9
1.3 Current Measure 10
1.3.1 Employ To Empower Programme 10
1.3.2 Public Campaign #asinglelove 12
1.4 Desired Outcomes 14
Chapter 2: Learning Through Imitation
2.1 Case Study: Business Women Network 16
2.2 Learning Point 1: Skills Training 18
2.2.1 Proposal 1: Providing Entrepreneurial Training Workshops 18
2.3 Learning Point 2: Publicity 19
2.3.1 Proposal 2: Improving Online Publicity 20
Overview of Chapter 1 & 2 22
Chapter 3: Learning to Crawl
3.1 Overview 23
3.2 Skills Training 23
3.2.1 Making Use of the Internet and Online Platform 24
3.2.2 Online Workshops 25
3.2.3 Online Question & Answer (Q&A) Service 28
3.2.4 Implementation of Online Features 29
3.2.5 Information on Local Business Policies 30
Chapter 4: First Words
4.1 Overview 32
4.2 Video with Tagline and Hand Sign 32
4.3 Social Media Account 37
4.4 Posters with QR Code to Social Media Account 37
Chapter 5: Baby Steps
5.1 Approach and Feasibility 41
5.1.1 Strengths 41
5.1.2 Limitations 42
5.2 Further Extensions 42
5.3 Overall Conclusion 43
A Grasp in the Dark
Problem Statement: Increasing employment opportunities for single mothers
1.1 Significance of Employment Issues of Single Mothers
Raising children is tough, expensive and exhausting but single-parent households have it harder than most nuclear families because only one adult shoulders the major responsibilities at home. In Singapore, 64% of single-parent households are headed by women. However, finding or staying in employment is a crisis for single mothers. A research conducted by Singapore Management University, which interviewed 88 single parents including 77 single mothers, showed that one of the leading causes of unemployment is difficulty in organizing childcare.
Single mothers are more likely to face discrimination in workplaces due to the extra commitments of single-handedly raising their children, making it difficult to keep their jobs. This often leads them to choose jobs that allow flexible work schedules or working from home, but support for such jobs are low. (Figure 1)
Figure 1: Establishments offering flexible work arrangements showing low support for flexible working schedules.
If this problem is unaddressed, the single mothers will be unable to support their child. Their financial stability would be jeopardized, consequently affecting family stability (Figure 2). Not only would this put them under enormous pressure, it is also harmful to the children's development and well-being. Heather Sandstrom and Sandra Huerta, experts on early childhood development, say that children of unemployed parents are more likely to face more academic difficulties, such as lower education level due to the inability to afford higher education.
Figure 2: Negative effects of unemployment of single mothers
1.2 Efforts of AWARE in Helping Single Mothers
Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) is a gender equality advocacy organisation in Singapore. (Figure 3)
Figure 3: Screenshot of AWARE's Overview
AWARE helps a range of women, including single mothers. It aims to remove gender barriers through research and advocacy, education, support services and, with regard to single mothers, it mainly focuses on their housing problems.
1.3 Current Measure
AWARE works closely with single mothers and have identified some of their key challenges, including childcare, financial, housing, and employment difficulties. It is acknowledged that many divorced parents are women who left employment to be a homemaker. AWARE, together with its partner, Daughters of Tomorrow (DoT), advocate for supportive employment opportunities for single parents who have to manage caregiving responsibilities alone.
1.3.1 Employ To Empower Programme
To create more employment opportunities, DoT initiated the Employ To Empower Programme to encourage businesses to hire underprivileged women, including single mothers. It encourages employers to be understanding of the women's situation, so as to facilitate better working environments for them and increase publicity for partnering companies (Figure 4).
Figure 4: Screenshot of some of Daughters of Tomorrow's Partner Employers of the Employ to Empower programme, featured on Daughters of Tomorrow's website.
22.214.171.124 Unaddressed Gap: Lack of Self-Driven Financial Opportunities
Although those partner employers are providing flexible jobs for single mothers as far as possible, the flexibility may not be sufficient for some mothers require more time for childcare, especially with infants or children with special needs. Single mothers face the overbearing stress of juggling numerous responsibilities with so little time and, as a result, single mothers are more susceptible to mental illnesses. On top of that, more time spent on childcare would also improve their children's development greatly as more time is spent with them.
1.3.2 Public Campaign #asinglelove
AWARE has a public campaign, #asinglelove, that “provide[s] single parents with back-to-work support”. The campaign itself used an appealing video in order to raise social awareness of this employment issue on its website. (Figure 5)
Figure 5: Screenshot of video related to employment issue on #asinglelove website
126.96.36.199 Unaddressed Gap: Insufficient Measures Taken for Publicity
Publicity is insufficient for raising awareness of unemployment issue of single mothers among the public. The video only records a single mother telling her story, lacking visual communication that would possibly leave a larger impact on the audience. The public is thus less able to understand how their support can help those single mothers, and single mothers would receive less help as a result. Moreover, the campaign has not used social media platforms to its full potential.This can be improved by including QR codes and posters which can be spread quickly and easily.
1.4 Desired Outcomes
We want to increase employment opportunities and financial independence for single mothers so more of them can earn a stable income and support their family.
Learning through Imitation
2.1 Case Study: Business Women Network
Business Women Network (BWN) is a platform specializing in assisting small enterprises and entrepreneurs in starting and managing their businesses. They conduct workshops regularly, educating members about all aspects of starting a business, from marketing through social media, to the basics of how to start up a business in Singapore (Figure 6). They cover both realistic and idealistic aspects of starting a business, helping entrepreneurs holistically.
Figure 6: Screenshot of BWN's upcoming The Start-Up Workshop, with a link for easy registration
Besides workshops, BWN also provides a platform for one to expand their network so as to constantly improve and promote their businesses (Figure 7).
Figure 7: Screenshot of Business Women Network Services' attractive poster
2.2 Learning Point 1: Skills Training
Single mothers would be able to benefit from similar workshops that teach them how to start up businesses. Having all aspects of starting up a business taught in one place, it is a convenient and efficient way for the single mothers to learn. This would help speed up the learning process and allow the single mothers start up their businesses quickly.
On top of that, there are also mentor sessions which allow women to seek help when they are met with problems. The mentorship program is a direct source of professional advice and development for single mothers, providing one-on-one support that addresses their issues directly, enhancing the learning process.
2.2.1 Proposal 1: Providing Entrepreneurial Training Workshops
Organizations such as AWARE, with public support, can carry out skills training workshops to train single mothers and equip them with the skills needed to set up a startup company of their own. With the entrepreneurial skills learned during the workshops, it enables them to explore business opportunities of their own interest.
2.3 Learning Point 2: Publicity
BWN uses varying forms of new media to publicize their events. Their poster (Figure 8) concretely states the information of the workshop and provides a link for registration, making registration easy for people who are interested.
Figure 8: BWN's informative poster with web link
BWN also regularly issues online magazines on the website (Figure 9). These magazines include tips for business start-ups as well as inspiring stories about BWN members who have set up successful businesses. The inspiring stories illustrate the effectiveness of BWN, encouraging women to participate in BWN's programmes. Similar publicity methods can be used in our project, in order to attract single mothers to participate in workshops as well as raise community involvement through showing them how their efforts would make a difference.
Figure 9: Appealing BWN online magazine cover page
2.3.1 Proposal 2: Improving Online Publicity
Learning from BWN, online publicity can be used to advertise the workshops and gather public support. The use of social media as well as videos and other forms of advertising would help single mothers and the community to find this platform easily.
Overview of Chapter 1 & 2
Learning to Crawl
To ensure flexible working hours for single mothers, the problem with the lack of self-driven business opportunities must be addressed. Hence, there is a need for workshops that teach single mothers entrepreneurial skills to start their own businesses. Starting their own businesses allows them to work at home with flexible work hours. On top of that, start-ups online save costs by eradicating the need for an office, giving single mothers the ability to decide on working hours that accommodate their hectic schedule. Just as BWN provides workshops teaching skills required to start up business and mentor sessions for further assistance, similar workshops can be conducted for single mothers via online platforms. The community would be encouraged to contribute their help in different ways, including teaching materials, expertise and their time in teaching the single mothers.
3.2 Skills Training
There is a lack of self-driven financial opportunities hence the skills taught during the workshops would include essential skills that are needed for one to start up their own business (Figure 10).
Fig 10: Our Sample Overview of the skills taught in workshops
3.2.1 Making Use of the Internet and Online Platform
The workshops would focus largely on technology competency, since the success of home-based businesses would depend on the internet - the most effective method to reach potential customers, with a website as an online profile for the business. Using the internet, publicity for these businesses would not be limited to physical methods (such as brochures and print ads), as access to the enterprise's product information would be available online, anywhere and anytime, providing more outreach that was impossible before the internet, thus reaching a wider audience in a shorter time.
Skills such as basic internet usage, setting up a website, setting up and maintaining social media platforms would be taught since they are essential for sustaining a home-based business.
3.2.2 Online Workshops
Workshops would be conducted via online video lessons. Offering the option of conducting a lesson online would provide greater flexibility for mothers who want to learn but do not have flexible hours.
Online video lectures, proven by several studies to be an extremely effectual teaching tool, would make effective use of visuals. Visuals ameliorate presentation and make information more accessible, so as to keep students engaged and learn more efficiently. Video lectures would include powerpoint slides (Figure 11), animations, and screen recordings to guide mothers when learning hands-on skills.
Figure 11: Screenshot of our sample video lecture with visuals. The sample sales chart on the right provides an idea for students about how to organize their sales statistics.
Videos would also be accompanied by notes or a copy of the powerpoint slides for easy reference and revision, so that information can be better retained. If a lecture covers complex ideas that might cause difficulty in understanding, notes would be a convenient reference material.
188.8.131.52 Substantiation for Online Workshops
Online video lectures have many didactic benefits. Video lectures are effective in conveying facts or showing procedures, as viewers can review the video repeatedly at their own pace, grasping the content with better understanding, thus facilitating better learning.
Using visuals, especially animation, help people grasp concepts quicker according to the cognitive theory of multimedia learning. Research has also found that students like lectures with slideshows better than those without, and thought their course and their own learning to be more efficacious when their lectures used slides. The interactiveness of today's media players encourage engagement, so that viewers learn less passively. Hence, with the aid of videos, single mothers would be able to learn more efficaciously.
Having online videos instead of talks would also save costs for the organization since administrative costs such as renting locations would not be needed. For instance, University of North Carolina and Highworth Grammar School use Moodle with its video conference features to combat budget cuts, saving more than 50%. Thus, replacing conventional talks with online videos would cut down on training fees, making access to these workshops affordable for single mothers, hence extending its reach to a larger group of beneficiaries.
3.2.3 Online Question & Answer (Q&A) Service
If single mothers face difficulties understanding what is being taught, an online Q&A service would be part of the website which allows them to ask questions. Questions regarding starting up a business would also be entertained, with answers provided by professionals in the team. This one-to-one consultation would provide better solutions, since the solutions would be tailored to their problems. With Q&A, students would be more responsible for their own learning as well. A study conducted by PubMed Central shows that active learning and student-centred pedagogy improve student attitudes and performance. The study compared final exam performances across 3 years, before and after implementation of active learning, which results led to significant improvement.
3.2.4 Implementation of Online Features
Since AWARE already has a website dedicated to helping women, it would be ideal if they allow access to online workshops from their website (Figure 12). With the platform they already have, providing training workshops both online and offline would extend outreach, addressing to the employment problems single mothers face on a larger scale.
Figure 12: Our edition of AWARE's website with the easily accessible “skills training workshops” tab
3.2.5 Information on Local Business Policies
Known for stringent policies, it can be confusing for one to undergo various procedures to start up and register a business in Singapore. The workshops would also include guiding single mothers in going through the tedious process of registration and getting workpasses, ensuring that legal processes go smoothly without any issues. The tedious process would no longer hinder single mothers from setting up their businesses and in turn provide more opportunities for single mothers to be independent financially.
Currently, the publicity is insufficient to raise public awareness or garner social support. A variety of publicity is required to garner community support so that programmes helping single mothers can be conducted smoothly. Learning from Business Women Network, the use of online platforms can reach a larger group of single mothers and the community, so as to attract single mothers and gather support from the public, in terms of monetary and human power.
4.2 Video with Tagline and Hand Sign
Video campaigning is an effective method to raise public awareness and empower target groups. The video for this campaign will focus on a single mother's story, illustrating her life before and after joining the project.
The first part of the video would have a gloomier tone, emphasizing the difficulties faced by a single mother while finding a job due to the lack of working experience and the need for time to care for her children (Frames 1-4, Figure 13). This part of the video uses personal appeal - the single mother's struggles would elicit empathy, encouraging the audience to sympathize with them, thus inspiring more to help.
The video would then depict how the community contributes to help make the business workshops possible (Frames 5-6, Figure 13). Then, the video switches to a brighter tone to portray the improvements in her life after she receives help from the project. (Frames 7-10, Figure 13). The large contrast before and after receiving help would show the community how their contribution can make a huge difference in these single mothers' lives, thus inspiring them to contribute; single mothers would also be attracted to join the workshop having known its benefits.
Figure 13: Our video campaign showing the contrast before and after a single mother joins the project
Our video will end with the single mother saying the tagline “Single Power” with other single mothers who have also benefited from the project. The tagline represents the strength of a single mother as both the sole breadwinner and caregiver of the family. They will also do a hand sign, a symbol of the heart that a single mother carries. It also resembles wings, symbolizing how the workshop will help her take flight and achieve the freedom of time to both provide for and take care of her family. (Figure 14)
Figure 14: Our hand sign
4.2.1 Substantiation for Video
A hand sign gives people a visual representation of the cause and rallies response. This method has been proven effective by the “I Quit” smoking video campaign (Figure 15).
Figure 15: “I Quit” video campaign by HPB
It has helped garner support for those who are trying to quit smoking. In 2014, the campaign had 10,000 participants, who were accompanied by close friends and family, and nearly 3 out of 5 participants have stopped smoking or smoked less.
Tomorrow's Youth Organization has adopted a similar video campaign and it is successful (Figure 16). This organization used a video to show how a boy's life is better off after receiving their help so that donors can better understand the impact of their contribution.
Figure 16: the effective video campaign of Tomorrow's Youth Organization
4.3 Social Media Account
A social media account would be created and maintained, with the purpose of making the workshops known to more people, as well as provide latest updates for upcoming events or workshops. Having an account would foster engagement and interaction with target audiences (single mothers and the general public), an effective platform for raising awareness and visibility for our cause. The social media account will actively update the events held by the organization helping single mothers and how the single mothers have been improving in various skills. This will induce a sense of pride among people who have supported single mothers and encourage more people to contribute by deepening their understanding of how their support will make a difference in single mothers' lives, so as to create a strong community support base.
Similar to BWN's online magazines, this social media account would also share successful entrepreneurs' and workshop alumni's experiences, to highlight the effectiveness of the workshops, thus boosting credibility.
4.3.1 Substantiation for Social Media Account
In order to attract O-Level students to Ngee Ann Polytechnic via Early Admission Exercise (EAE), the polytechnic posted a series of interviews with its past successful EAE applicants on instagram, garnering almost 2000 likes (Figure 17). This proves to be successful, since almost 8000 students applied for EAE in 2017.
Figure 17: Screenshot of Ngee Ann Polytechnic's interview series of its successful EAE applicants on its instagram page that has 28.3k followers.
4.4 Posters with QR Code to Social Media Account
To attract public attention, there will be posters highlighting the purpose and significance of the project so the audience understand the project in a glance (Figure 18 and 19). Since QR codes are proven to be beneficial for businesses with frequent customer engagement, placing QR codes on posters will encourage public participation. As 90% of marketers say social media helped increase their business' exposure, a QR code will be linked to social media accounts, at which the shareable campaign video is uploaded. People would be more inclined to visit the social media accounts and share them with others because it is hassle-free.
Figure 18: Our Sample Poster catered to Single Mothers
Figure 19: Our Sample poster catered to general public
5.1 Approach and Feasibility
Our varied approach to address the shortcomings in the employment of single mothers involves providing online training to equip them with skills to explore their own self-driven financial opportunities and improving publicity efforts. Our ideas are cost-effective and mostly requires volunteers so AWARE can adopt them easily.
Our proposal strategy is based on BWN, a successful model, and is supported by surveys and substantiation from expert findings. Our online workshops effectively enable single mothers to achieve financial stability by equipping single mothers with skills for business start-ups. Moreover, it acknowledges single mothers' needs for flexibility by focusing on Internet-related skills which are necessary for home-based businesses.
Our publicity ideas are accessible to increase the attractiveness for single mothers and potential volunteers. People who are equipped with information and skills needed will be invited to volunteer and teach entrepreneurial skills so there is community involvement.
The execution of workshops might be met with difficulties — the teaching staff need to be willing to help, and have expertise in this field. Since there are no tangible incentives, it would be difficult to convince the general public to volunteer. Our suggestion to counter this problem, should it arise, is to invite polytechnic students studying related courses for attachment as they have the knowledge required and may be interested in gaining experience through this programme.
5.2 Further Extensions
To further improve our project, we could extend the project to reach single fathers too. Though they are the minority, single fathers might also require help in business opportunities.
Additionally, alumni of the programme can be invited to share their experience and expertise to new learners, or even be their mentors, cultivating a giving-back culture that would inspire and further help the current students.
5.3 Overall Conclusion
Our proposal does not claim to solve all the problems faced by single mothers in Singapore. However, it is important that we address the critical employment issues faced by single mothers to make their lives more manageable.
“Raising a family is difficult enough. But it's even more difficult for single parents struggling to make ends meet. They don't need more obstacles. They need more opportunities.” We hope that, with sufficient opportunities, we can lighten the load for single mothers and help them find self-sustainable means to provide for their family.
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