Last year republic’s total fertility rate improved slightly from 1.28 to 1.3. In a bid to catalyse the city-state’s fertility rates and reverse the low birthrate and shrinking workforce phenomenon, the Singapore government has rolled out a Parenthood and Marriage Package worth S$2bn per year. This represents a $0.4 billion increase from the previous budget.
The funds will go into an array of programs that aim to facilitate homemaking, baby making, the raising and caring of children as well as work-life support.
PROVIDING AFFORDABLE HOUSING OPTIONS TO FAMILIES WHO NEED THEM MOST
To help young families have their own homes or privacy, the government has introduced two salient measures. With effect of this month, 30% of new HDB flats in mature as well as non-mature estates will be accorded with priority to married couples with children under the age of 16 and those who are buying HDB flats for the first time.
As well, under the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme, married couples with children may also have a better chance of renting about 1150 units of 3 – 5 room flats directly from the HDB at reasonable rates i.e. ranging from S$800 to S$1900.
FACILITATING CONCEPTION AND DELIVERY
With effect from 1 January 2013, the government will enhance their support to couples who have trouble conceiving. This is done through the co-funding of Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) treatments by 75%, capped at S$1,200 per frozen treatment cycles and S$6,300 per fresh treatment cycle.
In addition, Medisave can be used to pay for delivery costs as well as pre-delivery costs including for assisted conception methods.
BRINGING UP CHILDREN
Every Singaporean baby who came into the world with effect from 26 August 2012 will be granted a Medisave account filled with $3,000.
Parents enjoy a baby bonus that is enhanced by S$2,000 per child, up to the fourth child. This means that the first two children will be accorded a baby bonus worth S$6,000 each while the third and fourth children will receive S$8,000 respectively.
In addition, parents enjoy SS$600 and S$300 subsidy for infant and child care respectively. Those who employ foreign helpers stand to enjoy a S$95 discount on their foreign worker levy (FWL) per month if they children are aged under 12 years old.
Mothers still enjoy 4 months of paid maternity leave, of which 1 week can be shared with working fathers. Fathers also get 7 days of paternity leave per child. In addition, each parent enjoy 6 days of paid childcare leave per annum until their children turn 7.
Other personal income tax reliefs such as the Grandparent Caregiver, Qualifying, Handicapped and Working Mother’s Child Relief still apply.
ENHANCING SUPPORT FOR WORKING PARENTS
With effect of May 2013, maternity protection for the full term of pregnancy is conferred to women who are dismissed unfairly by their employers, so long as they have worked for 90 days in the company.
Working mothers who adopt will get four weeks of government-paid adoption leave. In addition, parents with young children aged 7 to 12 will get two days of childcare leave per annum.
Analysis by Rikvin shows that these extensive measures aim to make Singapore a more family friendly country, following feedback from citizens that there are many hurdles to creating families, buying homes or balancing familial responsibilities due to work commitments. In recent Gallup surveys, Singapore has emerged at the top but for less than stellar reasons – for having the least positive and least happy people worldwide. Perhaps, by enhancing familial benefits and unloading some costs associated to starting families, Singaporeans may live more meaningful and happier lives, outside of the office.