Family-minded culture is what we need
WHILE I applaud the Government's decision to dole out bigger baby bonuses ("The big push for more babies; last Tuesday"), I doubt it would improve Singapore's total fertility rate significantly.
I am a full-time working mother of one, and I am still contemplating having a second child.
The problem is not that we do not have enough money to start a family, it is that we do not have a family-minded culture. What mothers need is not cash, it is "baby-time".
The biggest challenge we face is juggling the demands of working and taking care of our young children.
The joy of parenthood is in taking care of and spending time with our children. This is the foundation upon which a family-minded culture is laid.
While it is true that people need to change their mindsets, the Government can do more to foster a family-minded culture.
It should allow mothers to take time off for child-bearing - let parents have the time to be parents.
The Government should offer extended maternity leave of up to two years, and allow this to be converted to paternity leave.
It should also make it easier for mothers (and fathers) to return to work after such leave.
Many of us have spent considerable effort to build our careers before starting a family. Companies should be made to offer employees returning from parental leave similar jobs at the same level as when they left.
While this may lead to a reduction in the company's competitiveness in the short term, it gains in the long term by retaining talent. There are also intangible benefits like improved employee loyalty and job satisfaction.
By allowing both mothers and fathers to take extended parental leave, companies will no longer discriminate against women when they hire.
Transforming our work-obsessed culture into a more family-friendly one is critical to Singapore's success. A country whose people fail to procreate is doomed to failure.
Nadia Moertiyoso (Mrs)