29 Aug 2008, 9.00AM
When it comes to having children, the common lament among Singaporeans is that tax reliefs and other prevailing Marriage & Parenthood (M&P) incentives are not enough to address the wide range of costs related to childcare and parenting in today’s high cost environment. For the career-minded women, there is genuine fear that they will be discriminated against when they take long maternity leave and thereby lose out to other colleagues.
These were just some of the feedback that REACH received during the consultation exercise on M&P from May - July 2008, when Singaporeans were asked for their views on how to increase the birth rate in Singapore.
Many couples and parents shared their wishlist which they felt would encourage more Singaporeans to have children. These included additional financial and tax incentives including more childcare and infant care subsidies and facilities as well as greater flexibility and understanding by employers and stricter enforcement against employers who discriminate against working mothers.
To address the concerns raised by the feedback contributors, Prime Minister, in his National Day Rally speech, announced that the Government would enhance the M&P package to provide more broad-based support for couples to get married and to raise and care for their children. It thus came as no surprise that when DPM Wong Kan Seng subsequently announced the details of the enhanced M&P package, the package had in place, various measures to address the feedback received.
The enhanced M&P package was very much welcomed, so much so that many parents-to-be immediately called for the Government to consider bringing forward the qualifying date instead of waiting till 1 January 2009. In response to the overwhelming public feedback received on this request, the qualifying date was brought forward to 17 August 2008, the date of PM’s NDR Speech, much to the delight of many parents-to-be.
Following PM’s NDR Speech and the announcement of the enhanced M&P package by DPM Wong Kan Seng, REACH received more than 2,000 feedback from August – September 2008 on this issue.
Feedback contributors welcomed the enhanced M&P package and the Government’s efforts to boost birth rates. Topping the list of most popular measures was the extra four weeks of maternity leave followed by Baby Bonus. Of course feedback contributors also gave their ideas and suggestions on what else could be done to encourage couples to get married and parents to have children. The most oft-heard feedback was the call for more workplaces to embrace pro-family policies.
Thank you for your feedback, ideas and suggestions. REACH has compiled all the feedback received and shared them with the relevant Government agencies. For details of the package and the revised qualifying date, where applicable, please refer to NPS Press Release.
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