Parliamentary reply by Minister Indranee Rajah on Promoting Childbirth
FOURTEENTH PARLIAMENT OF SINGAPORE
MONDAY, 5 JULY 2021
Mr Ang Wei Neng:
To ask the Prime Minister whether Singapore’s family friendly policies will be adjusted in view of the 2020 population census results, particularly in the areas of (i) promoting childbirth (ii) child and student care facilities and (iii) child friendly workplace policies.
Ms Indranee Rajah (for the Prime Minister):
The trends reported in Census 2020 include rising singlehood and fewer children born to married women, leading to declining birth and fertility rates. They reflect shifts in societal norms and values towards marriage and parenthood over time. These trends are not new or unique to Singapore, and are also observed in other advanced societies. More recently, the restrictions and disruptions caused by COVID-19 have resulted in marriages being delayed, thereby also affecting births in many countries.
We continually review our policies to ensure that they remain relevant and effective in supporting family formation. Supporting Singaporeans who wish to start and raise families remains a national priority. The Government has invested significant resources in our measures, to strengthen support for marriage and parenthood. For example, in 2019, we introduced an Enhanced CPF Housing Grant of up to $80,000 to further help first-timer HDB flat applicants afford their own home. Last year, we introduced the Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI) co-funding scheme and enhancing the Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) co-funding scheme to help couples with difficulty conceiving. MOH fully subsidises all nationally-recommended vaccinations and developmental screenings for Singaporean children at all Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) General Practitioner clinics and polyclinics. We introduced the $3,000 Baby Support Grant (BSG) to help reassure couples to proceed with their parenthood plans in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, more than 22,000 families have benefited from the BSG. This year, we increased the maximum Government contribution to the Child Development Account for the second-born child from $6,000 to $9,000.
The Government has progressively invested in accessible and affordable child and student care facilities, and increased the number of preschool places over the years. Full-day preschool places have more than doubled – from 90,000 in 2012, to around 190,000 today. This will increase to over 200,000 places by 2023. Last year, we increased the qualifying income ceiling and quantum of means-tested preschool subsidies, enabling more families to benefit. By around 2025, 80% of preschoolers can have a place in an affordable Government-supported quality preschool.
We have also increased the number of Student Care Centres (SCCs) places over the years. Today, more than 400 SCCs are registered with the Ministry of Social and Family Development to administer the Student Care Fee Assistance (SCFA) scheme under ComCare, which subsidises the student care fees for eligible children. This includes SCCs that are located in all 186 primary schools. Registered SCCs provide around 48,000 student care places today, with more than sufficient capacity.
To foster family-friendly workplaces, the Government continues to work with tripartite partners to support and promote the adoption of flexible work arrangements (FWAs), and other relevant practices. Last year, 93 per cent of companies offered some form of formal or ad-hoc FWAs. This year, we launched the Tripartite Standard on Work-Life Harmony to further promote the adoption of FWAs and employee support schemes, and set up the Alliance for Action on Work-Life Harmony to raise awareness on work-life practices, and support employers who face challenges in implementing them. We intend to encourage employers to treat FWAs as a regular workplace feature.
We will continue to gather feedback and refine our measures to support Singaporeans on issues that matter most to them. The ongoing Emerging Stronger Conversations on “Building a Singapore that is Made For Families” is part of this effort. Many have shared with me that COVID-19 has led us to reassess our priorities, and to recognise the value and importance of family in our lives, especially the invaluable support that they provide during challenging times. While marriage and parenthood remain deeply personal decisions, we believe that we can do more as a society to make marriage and parenthood achievable, enjoyable and celebrated, and families a central part of our lives.