Want more babies?
Then support single unwed mothers and foreign wives whose children are Singaporean.
In a paper submitted to the National Population and Talent Division, the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) called for policies that have the interest of the child at heart, not one based on a woman's marital status.
"The current exclusion of unmarried parents from certain housing benefits, parental leave, subsidies and bonuses are not only unfair but they hurt the families who most need the support," the report said.
The report, Marriage and Parenthood Trends: Some suggestions from Aware.
A submission to the NPTD office, covered a slew of suggestions to raise Singapore's low total fertility rate (TFR).
They include extending access to childcare subsidies, motherhood and housing benefits to unwed mothers and granting citizenship to foreign mothers of Singaporean children.
Dr Janil Puthucheary, MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, told The New Paper that he does "agree that we should not exclude them from the existing benefits, especially as those benefits will directly impact the child".
Dr Puthucheary had previously spoken up for single unwed women last October during the debate on the President's Address in Parliament. He pointed out the discrimination.
A married Singaporean woman was potentially entitled to 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, half supported by her employerand half the by the Government.
But the employer of an unwed Singaporean mother giving birth to a Singaporean child is required to provide eight weeks of paid maternity leave and a "further four unpaid with no government funding", he noted.
Additionally, the single unwed mother will not qualify for the tax relief for a foreign domestic worker and is entitled to only two days of childcare leave per year for a child below the age of seven.
The two days are capped, regardless of the number of children, whereas married parents are entitled to six days of childcare leave for children of that age.
"Why is it that we are denying a Singaporean child, during his most vulnerable days, equality of access to his mother?" Dr Puthucheary had said.
When asked how giving unwed mothers more rights would increase the TFR, Aware's executive director Corrinna Lim said it would not, but the extension of these rights was a more "holistic approach of supporting children who are already born (to unwed mothers)".
"Why the need to discriminate these group of mothers?" said Ms Lim.
Ms Lim clarified that Aware was not advocating for more unwed mothers.
Said Dr Yap Mui Teng , senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies: "We need to find out empirically whether this change of focus from marriage and procreation within a heterosexual family unit to a child-oriented one, would encourage irresponsible behaviour or not."
Mindful of the potential for state support or benefit to be abused or exploited, Dr Puthucheary told The New Paper that there would have tobe "care and oversight".
"But we shouldn't let that potential stop us from examining the possibilities to improve the situation," he said.
While it is apparent that the cards are stacked against single unwed mothers, it is not the case that they do not get any help at all, said MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, Dr Lily Neo.
"It does not mean that we don't support such families. We do get things done, but on a case-by-case basis," Dr Neo said.
For instance, single unwed mothers do not qualify for a rental flat as under HDB rules a family unit is defined as a married couple or a widow or divorcee with children under legal custody, but Dr Neo told The New Paper she managed to get such a resident in her ward a rental flat.
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