Moremonetary incentives for couples to have children, priority when it comes to buying flats near their parents, and the option for a woman to share maternity leave with her spouse - these are some of the latest ideas in the ongoing national discussion on reversing Singapore's falling birth rate.
The suggestions are among proposals in a paper by four members of the People's Action Party (PAP) Women's Wing, including Members of Parliament Jessica Tan and Intan Azura Mokhtar.
The other two are Ms Daisy Ngiam, a branch administrator at PAP Community Foundation, which runs pre-schools, and Ms Pauline Sim, human-resources and administration group senior manager for offshore-drilling firm Jasper Offshore.
They submitted the paper to the National Population and Talent Division yesterday morning.
During a media briefing at the PAP Headquarters in New Upper Changi Road yesterday, Ms Tan said the paper focuses on couples who want kids but do not have enough support.
Many young Singaporeans currently see marriage and procreation as things that can be delayed until other life goals are met. Marriage and children are also seen as impediments to work-life balance and as too costly, she said.
The team hope their ideas will make it easier for couples to form families, and reduce their fears and uncertainties about the cost of raising kids here.
Among the team's six broad recommendations are tweaks to housing policies.
Ms Tan said the existing policy of offering a grant to first-time home owners "encourages married children to move out". They hope that the structure of the grant will be relooked, to allow children who choose to live with their parents to be eligible too.
Dr Intan said she hopes for a grant for grandparents who are caregivers. She had received feedback from grandparents about the costs involved, and their desire to be more independent of their children.
It can be in the form of Medisave or Central Provident Fund top-ups, she said.
The team are also calling for better early childhood education, by encouraging the Government to "build a large tier of accessible, affordable and good quality pre-school centres".
Ms Tan said there is currently an "unevenness" in the cost and quality of pre-schools.
"I'm not saying for the Government to run all of them. What we are asking is greater government involvement in this sector so that we can (have) more even quality," she said, adding that private childcare providers may not have the muscle to lift the whole industry.
Ms Ngiam said she hopes to see all early-childhood educators receive training at the National Institute of Education.
Another proposal they are advocating is shared maternity leave. The team recommend that the existing four months of maternity leave be shared with fathers.
This means two months for the mother to re- cover, and the remainder to be flexible, to be taken by either parent.
Ms Tan added that this would also address the concerns of women who feel that long maternity leave would affect their employability and erode employers' willingness to develop them professionally.
Shared maternity leave would also correct the assump- tion that women are responsible for "the major part of child- bearing and caring in the early months".
The paper was spurred by feedback gathered over the years, such as from other women MPs, women's groups, as well as dialogues with female professionals, young parents and singles.
The public can expect more proposals on other areas, such as help for those who stay at home to care for their children, in the future.
- Couples with children or who are expecting a child to be given priority to BTO or repossessed flats at mature estates near their parents
- Allow couples who choose to live with their parents to be eligible for the first-timers housing grant
- Give couples the option of renting a flat while waiting for BTO flat
AFFORDABLE AND GOOD-QUALITY PRE-SCHOOLS
- Stronger government intervention to create more accessible and standardised quality pre-school centres
PRO-FAMILY HR PRACTICES
- Encourage flexible work arrangements, including part-time work Tax relief for firms hiring part-time or relief employees
SHARED MATERNITY LEAVE
- Share four-month maternity leave with fathers. Two of the four to be leave for mothers; allow flexibility over who should take remaining two months’ leave
MEDICAL INSURANCE FOR NEWBORNS
- Include serious congenital and neonatal conditions in medical insurance
- Enhancement in Baby Bonus to be in the form of subsidised premiums for a “Baby Shield” insurance scheme to mitigate expenses
INCREASE IN SUPPORT FOR ASSISTED REPRODUCTION
- Increase subsidy for in-vitro fertilisation and allow eligibility for this subsidy in private sector
For more my paper stories click here.