KUALA TERENGGANU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - In what could be a world's first - it certainly has never been tried in Malaysia - one state government is going to help pay for the maids of young parents.
Terengganu has decided to do this as part of a package of incentives to get young couples to have more babies.
It will also lower kindergarten fees. Couples earning below RM3,000 (S$1,074) will be offered loans of up to RM20,000 if they want to start a business.
Revealing this, Terengganu Family Development Foundation director Mohd Shafaruddin Mustafa told The Star: "With all this help, couples should not delay their marriage. We want them to have more babies. The state's fertility rate has been dropping."
He said the state would pay RM200 out of the RM900 monthly salary for a maid.
Mr Sharafudin said there was no income ceiling or strict criteria for the maid assistance programme.
"Anyone can apply," he said, adding that the scheme was open to all races.
While other countries support young parents with tax breaks, maternity and paternity leave or free childcare, the move for a state to specifically co-pay for a maid is unusual.
For example, Singapore offers only a tax break on maids for young parents in the form of a lower government levy.
Terengganu will also give RM100 to every newborn in the form of an education savings scheme, besides free consultation and support services to families in need, said Mr Shafaruddin.
This amounts to a modest version of what's done in Singapore, often called a Baby Bonus scheme. There, parents of children born after 2012 get cash of up to S$6,000 (RM20,800) each for the first and second child and S$8,000 (RM22,400) each for the third and fourth child.
The cash gift is given in three instalments in the first year from the birth of the child. And that is just a part of the Baby Bonus scheme, that includes more financial aid in other forms.
Mr Shafaruddin said the monthly fee at a state-run kindergarten was about RM250 but parents paid only RM180 after discount.
Mr Naserwan Najmi, 27, from Kuala Terengganu said he was looking for a maid for quite some time to care for their baby.
"We really need one if we need more children,'' said the restaurant owner.
Mother of two Nurdiana Che Anawa, 26, a teacher from Marang, said she had not thought of how many children to have.
"The maid assistance programme is good.''
Marang Wanita Umno chief To' Puan Zaitun Mat Amin said there were cheaper options for Terengganu folk on house rentals, food and other essentials "compared to Kuala Lumpur".
"Finance should not be a worry. It is possible to raise many children here,'' she said.