The Singapore government plans to spend an additional S$700 million a year on measures to boost its flagging birth rate. Currently, it spends about S$900 million a year.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his National Day Rally speech on Sunday night that a baby brings much joy, but can also be a logistic and financial challenge, so a slew of measures will be implemented by the government to create more time and more funds to help parents cope with their children.
Paid maternity leave will be extended from 12 weeks to 16 weeks, and the extra four weeks can be taken anytime during the baby’s first year. It was previously extended from eight to 12 weeks in 2004.
There will also be a larger baby bonus for first-time parents, more tax incentives to encourage mothers to work, more incentives for the fifth and subsequent children, and more financial support for couples who go for In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatment.
On top of that, Mr Lee said parenting is not just the mother’s responsibility.
“I used to change nappies, in the days before Pampers. So you’ve actually got to fold the cloth, you’ve got to put it on, you’ve got to put the safety pin, I haven’t pricked any baby yet. If I can do it, that means anybody can do it,” he quipped.
Emphasising that parenting is a job for both parents has influenced some policy changes which he hopes will help to shift attitudes. Childcare leave, which can be claimed by either parent, will be extended from two to six days per year.
Government to spend S$700m more on pro-family measures, 18 Aug 2008
I knew it! I knew it! Once again, we longsuffering dads are treated like an afterthought by the Gahmen.
What was in that NDP Rally Message for us Providers Of Spermatoza and Masculine Role Models? Here’s what I heard:
“Here, take a few more days leave. Never mind that your wife needs one month for confinement, the extra four childcare leave days should be enough okay. Oh yes, don’t forget to turn up for reservist where you won’t see your wife and newborn for the next month or so”
“Claim more baby bonus as a tax break. But don’t blame us if you want to drive a car to ferry the kids around town and you kena the ERP chain of gantries. Can always take the supercrowded MRT mah, even with your stroller.”
“Have five kids or more lah. We know the tax breaks are enough for the first five years. After that, if all your kids want to go uni at $100k a pop, that’s your problem. Your wife going back to work in her cushy job soon right?”
We guys ought to really protest. All the benefits are going to women, and it’s assumed that guys don’t play a major part in their childrens’ lives.
Well some of us dads do try, and the Gahmen isn’t encouraging other fathers-to-be to try either.
Those policymakers just don’t get it. And I want to know how many married guys were involved in making this New Baby Bonus which I am sure will not move the birth rate up by a significant measure.
They forget it takes two hands to clap. For goodness sake, the Gahmen is not the other half that wives need as much help they can get from – we husbands are. But where are we in this wonderful Singapore Fertility Equation? We’re nothing more than the petri dish or the titration tap.
PS: Got quoted in Today on Aug 20th!