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Fri, Aug 24, 2012
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Six proposals to turn S'poreans into babymakers
by Joy Fang

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.

Some recommendations:


- 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


- Stronger government intervention to create more accessible and standardised quality pre-school centres


- Encourage flexible work arrangements, including part-time work Tax relief for firms hiring part-time or relief employees


- 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


- 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 subsidy for in-vitro fertilisation and allow eligibility for this subsidy in private sector

For more my paper stories click here.



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readers' comments

Many can be many many, but exactly how many can be considered as many huh? And speaking of many, not many are like my Ang Moh bosses, they will hire definitely Singaporeans as they don't discriminate pple. If one has the right academic qualifications and skillsets to do the job, my kind bosses will gladly welcome him/her with open arms that's for sure. :)
Posted by LouisSG74 on Mon, 27 Aug 2012 at 12:05 PM

One year is not really enough.
Waive for *3 years* after birth of youngest child.
Posted by coolbeagle on Mon, 27 Aug 2012 at 10:45 AM
"Attitude of employers are crucial - as it is, many already seek to avoid hiring SG men with NS duties."

Yah.. add that with their suggestion to split maternity leave with the men, so you have men taking 2 months leave plus another 40 days reservist.. there goes employability.

Only possible if reservist is waived off for that year the baby is born... don't think they will slaughter this cow .. moo.
Posted by 0517elias on Sat, 25 Aug 2012 at 09:07 AM

The Way I See It:

Lubbish suggestions from lubbish people again. :D

Posted by ILostMyBall on Fri, 24 Aug 2012 at 23:53 PM
Medical fees for babies is expensive.
Shouldnt it be foc for all sporean babies?
Also the education fees too.
Shouldnt it be foc too for all sporean babies?
Posted by hfourhappy on Fri, 24 Aug 2012 at 16:11 PM
First, these ideas aren't really new - many Singaporeans have proposed it before.

Second, some of these ideas need more power in order to work.

- Encourage flexible work arrangements, including part-time work Tax relief for firms hiring part-time or relief employees

The whole work culture in Singapore, as well as prevailing attitudes in Asia in general, just sucks as far as this is concerned.
Encouragement is totally insufficient - more legislations are required.

Countries with most favourable pro-family HR practices do incur a substantial financial cost - the only question is who pays for it.
Some of their governments do have sizable revenues without relying heavily on income taxes.

Attitude of employers are crucial - as it is, many already seek to avoid hiring SG men with .....
Posted by coolbeagle on Fri, 24 Aug 2012 at 15:39 PM
i'm just curious why peoples need pre-school ?

during my time there was no pre-school, only kindergarden, even kindergarden has no bearing to how good your result is at primary school ...
Posted by jameslee58 on Fri, 24 Aug 2012 at 15:35 PM
if all else fails, use reverse psychology haha
Posted by iamkng999 on Fri, 24 Aug 2012 at 15:32 PM
Dear AsiaOne Diva

It is good that the PAP's Women's Wing came up with the 6 proposals to try to promote marriage and having babies so as to solve many of the pressing problems faced by locally born and bred Singaproeans about the overwhelming influx of foreigners - talent (fake and real), workers (blue, white and gold collared), business owners (good and bad ones) and new citizens (convenient or the committed type).

Assuming the PAP's Women's Wing has correctly identified WHY Singaporeans are NOT getting married and not having children (it seems there was a report by one of the DPMs in one of the situations that it is getting people to get marriage rather than having them to produce babies after they are married that is the challenge. I personally think this may not be the case actually as many married couples delay .....
Posted by lukeehong on Fri, 24 Aug 2012 at 15:09 PM
The debate about working women and raising a family is becoming a concern in all countries, incl Sg. IMHO, the family value system has been changed drastically. The work environment does not make it easier for working mothers in terms of flexible parenting time and promotion prospects. Until the playing field is level, women will make career first and family last, with housing, lifestyle in between.
The government needs to have a draconian action pan to penalize against erring employers or else all countries will use migration to balance the number game, which contributes to other problems such as infrastructure overloads and social upheaval with too many new migrates adjusting to local conditions at unrealistic pace.
Posted by Seemun48 on Fri, 24 Aug 2012 at 13:23 PM

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