Committee of Supply debate: Prime Minister's Office

It takes the 'whole of society' to help Singaporeans have more babies

Ms Lee and Mr Tan became first-time parents of twins last March. Thanks to a supportive supervisor, Mr Tan was able to take a week of paternity leave and a week of Ms Lee's 16-week maternity leave under a scheme that lets her share the leave with him
Ms Lee and Mr Tan became first-time parents of twins last March. Thanks to a supportive supervisor, Mr Tan was able to take a week of paternity leave and a week of Ms Lee's 16-week maternity leave under a scheme that lets her share the leave with him.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

When his twin sons were born in March last year, Mr Eugene Tan, 31, took two weeks off work to help out at home.

The investment analyst changed diapers and bought groceries.

Said his wife Rachel Lee, 27, a human resources professional: "As first-time parents with twins, the learning curve was very steep. So I very much appreciated my husband's presence."

Mr Tan had taken a week of paternity leave and a week of Ms Lee's 16-week maternity leave under a scheme that lets her share the leave with him.

This was possible because his supervisor was supportive, added Ms Lee.

Support like this is crucial if more Singaporeans are to have children, said Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo during the debate on the spending plans of the Prime Minister's Office yesterday.

Singapore's total fertility rate, the average number of children a woman will have over her lifetime, was 1.24 last year.

Ms Teo, who oversees population matters, outlined yesterday how the Government is doing its part to ensure that those who dream of having children can afford to do so. This is done through a combination of giving housing grants, providing accessible and affordable childcare, and decreasing the out-of-pocket costs of hospital deliveries.

But she said employers, too, need to support working parents and make workplaces family-friendly.

Society should also foster an environment where parenthood is celebrated, she said, adding it would make parenting more enjoyable.

She said: "We need the collective effort of the whole of society, by which I mean employers, co-workers, community organisations and businesses, all being supportive in words and deeds."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2016, with the headline 'It takes the 'whole of society' to help Singaporeans have more babies'. Print Edition | Subscribe