GOVERNMENT'S BABY BOOSTERS

Couples hail baby package's help with short-term costs

But some say long-term concerns such as cost and quality of childcare not addressed

EXTRA money will always come in handy, and couples say this week's Marriage and Parenthood package will help them cope with the short-term costs of having a baby.

Among them is engineer Darius Tian, 28. He is getting married later this year and plans to have a child before he is 30.

"But first, I need to take into account the big-ticket items I need to pay for, such as the cost of my wedding and buying a new flat," he said.

The new incentives announced on Monday include larger baby bonuses and a Medisave grant for every newborn. They will lighten parents' financial burden.

Many of the 10 couples interviewed also welcomed the introduction of a week of compulsory paternity leave.

Undergraduate Serene Choong, 23, who has purchased a flat in Punggol with her boyfriend of the same age, said: "I think the new initiatives are rather attractive, especially the week of paternity leave, where dads can be more involved and have more time to bond with their newborns."

But some said where the measures fall short is in addressing their long-term concerns about raising a child here. These include the affordability and quality of childcare, the stressful education system and juggling family and career.

Public relations executive Nio Jian Qiang, 26, suggested higher subsidies for childcare, saying these would be "more effective" than doling out cash.

He has applied for a flat with his girlfriend and is planning to get married in about three years. "How are young couples, already servicing an exorbitant housing loan, going to be able to afford (childcare)?"

Mr Aaron Tan, 33, agrees. He said more also needs to be done to ensure quality childcare. "There is a basic level of proficiency for schools, but I can't say the same for childcare centres," said the public servant, who just got married last week. "There needs to be some kind of regulation."

This is an area the Government is working on and new measures are expected soon.

Some, like Ms Brenda Lee, 24, an engineer-turned-coordinator, called for an overhaul of the education system as she worries about the stress her children will have to undergo as students. She plans to have children with her husband-to-be within the next five years.

"I want my children to be able to express themselves creatively and articulately. I would like them to develop soft skills that can take them further in life."

Couples also worry about how starting a family may derail their careers.

Ms Tricia Lim, 27, who has been married for more than two years, plans to wait another two years before trying for a baby so she can focus on her job. For the corporate banker, the cost of raising a child is not such a big concern.

"I think flexible working arrangements will help because for young people who have a career, it's more about whether you can still perform at work. If you are missing for half a year for maternity leave, when you come back, you have to start all over again," she said.

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