Singapore

Two in five workers here faced sexual harassment: Survey

But only one in three reported the problem to a higher authority at work or the human resource department

Two in five workers polled in Singapore's first nationally representative survey on workplace sexual harassment said they have been victims of such unwelcome sexual advances or remarks in the office in the past five years.

About one in three of those harassed suffered at the hands of their boss or someone more senior than them in the office.

But only one in three victims reported the harassment to their boss, a senior person at work or their human resource department.

The study was carried out by market research firm Ipsos and gender equality organisation Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware).

A total of 1,000 Singaporeans and permanent residents, both working men and women, were polled online in November last year, Aware said.

Of those who said they were sexually harassed at work, 18 per cent said they received crude and distressing remarks, or jokes or gestures of a sexual or sexist nature.

Another 16 per cent heard offensive or alarming remarks or questions about their body, appearance or sexual activities, while some 13 per cent were physically touched in an unwelcome way.

But only one in three reported the harassment to an official authority at work.

Those who did not said they wanted to forget the unpleasant experience or felt what they had experienced was not serious enough.

Some also felt they had no evidence of the wrongdoing.

SACKED

In about 40 per cent of the harassment cases reported by the victims to their management, the perpetrator was subsequently reassigned to another job role or sacked.

However, in about 20 per cent of the cases, the harasser faced no consequence, despite evidence of the offence.

Ms Shailey Hingorani, Aware's head of research and advocacy, said of the study: "It affirms that workplace sexual harassment is a pervasive and urgent problem."

In 2019, Aware started the Workplace Harassment and Discrimination Advisory Service, offering support to people facing harassment at work.

Among those it has helped was Maria (not her real name), who was groped by a colleague .

She filed a police report and the company started an internal investigation. But the man continued to make Maria feel unsafe at work, and she decided to quit.

Then there is Jonathan (not his real name), whose male supervisor made comments about his private parts, among other acts of harassment.

Jonathan reported the matter to his company's human resource department, but his complaint was dismissed.

Calling on the Government to introduce legislation against workplace harassment, Aware said there should be regular anti-harassment training across industries and the universal adoption of grievance-handling policies.

Employment