SINGAPORE - Unwed mothers will finally get the same 16-week maternity leave that other mothers get.
And their children will also be given a Child Development Account, which helps pay for childcare and healthcare needs.
Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin announced on Tuesday (April 12) the extension of these benefits - currently applicable only for married parents - to unmarried mothers and their children.
He said the maternity leave benefits will kick in from early next year as Parliament "will need to amend legislation to make this happen".
But children born to unwed mothers will likely be included in the Child Development Account scheme from the third-quarter of 2016, he added.
Explaining the changes, Mr Tan said: "I feel that we can do more to support their efforts to care for their children, and reduce the disadvantages that their children may face at birth."
He added: "I, too, am sympathetic to this group. Unwed parents may be vulnerable if they are younger and lower-educated. Some may have been rejected by their own families. It can be difficult to raise a child single-handedly, without family support. Some may have hoped to have a child within marriage, but ended up as unwed parents by circumstances."
Currently, unwed mothers are entitled to eight weeks of paid maternity leave and their children do not qualify for Child Development Accounts. The Government matches deposits made by parents into these accounts up to $6,000.
Mr Tan had called for a review of the discrepancy in benefits for unwed mothers in April last year.
Unwed mothers do not get the Baby Bonus cash gift and parenthood tax rebates, and have to wait until they are 35 years old to buy a Housing Board flat under the singles scheme.