Bosses, community play a part in family-friendly push

We thank members of the public for their views on raising Singapore's birth rate.

Singapore's birth rate began to fall below replacement levels from 1977. Although birth rates have stabilised at around 1.2, there are encouraging signs.

For example, the number of marriages and births in the last three years surpassed the averages over the past decade.

Surveys also show consistently that the majority of young Singaporeans have strong aspirations to marry and have children.

The Government regularly seeks their feedback and adjusts its policies to address their concerns.

To better support marrying couples, the Housing Board has launched more than 50,000 new Build-To-Order (BTO) flats in the last three years and sets aside at least 70 per cent of three-room flats and 85 per cent of four-room and larger flats for first-timer families.

From next year, it will offer some BTO flats with shorter waiting times of about two and a half years.

In addition, the Government raised the Central Provident Fund housing grants for first-timer couples buying resale HDB flats.

To better support parents with caregiving needs, we will add 40,000 more full-day pre-school places over the next five years, an expansion of 30 per cent compared with today.

By 2023, two out of every three pre-schoolers will have a place in a government or government-supported pre-school.

This will help more parents access quality and affordable childcare.

Over the years, we have progressively enhanced parenthood-related leave provisions.

This year, we also enhanced paternity leave, shared parental leave and adoption leave to better support working parents, particularly fathers who share in the caring of their infants.

We are testing the feasibility of additional unpaid infant care leave, through a three-year pilot in the public service.

Other support measures such as the Baby Bonus, Medisave grant for newborns, infant care and childcare subsidies, help parents with the costs of raising a child.

Besides government measures, parents are unanimous in pointing out the important role of employers and co-workers. Their support is critical if we are to foster family-friendly workplaces which adopt progressive practices such as flexible work arrangements.

Employers can tap various resources to implement family-friendly measures, including the Ministry of Manpower's Work-Life Grant.

To give more visibility and help job seekers identify companies with progressive workplace practices, the tripartite partners strongly encourage employers to adopt the recently launched tripartite standard on flexible work arrangements.

Increasing Singapore's birth rate requires a concerted national effort to foster a culture that values families and children.

Every facet of society - the Government, employers, colleagues, family and friends - all play a critical part in making Singapore a great place for families, where marriage and parenthood are achievable, enjoyable and celebrated.

Jan Chua (Ms)

Director, Marriage & Parenthood Policy Directorate

Strategy Group, Prime Minister's Office

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2017, with the headline 'Bosses, community play a part in family-friendly push'. Print Edition | Subscribe