Helping fathers to utilise their paternity leave is an incremental step towards a Singapore where both parents share equitably the responsibility of raising children. Unfortunately, the take-up rate for such leave, which was doubled to two weeks on a voluntary basis last year, has been modest. This could be due to the reticence of men working for small and medium-sized enterprises, which typically run on tight manpower, to claim their entitlement. Indeed, only 40 per cent of eligible employees in such enterprises take up to a full week of paternity leave.
Given that these firms employ 70 per cent of the local workforce, more should be done to give their male staff access to the paternity leave benefits enjoyed by employees in the civil service and large corporations. The former, as well as several of the latter, has implemented the enhanced paternity leave, which gives fathers an extra week off work, the payment of which will be borne by the Government. With that financial support in place, smaller companies should concentrate on rostering duties and other logistical details to give their male staff time off.
This emphasis would occur in the midst of a mindset change on paternity that ties Singapore to developments in advanced societies. Patriarchal resistance to partnering women in bringing up children is increasingly a thing of the past for many young fathers today. They have accepted the enhanced familial role expected of them in societies where skewed gender roles are on the defensive. Practical measures, such as monetary support for more paternity leave, are an important official signal that Singapore is moving with the times. This is its legacy for tomorrow's nation.