There may be a large number of parents in Singapore who work late or shifts and may require childcare services to extend beyond 7pm, but extending childcare services is not the only or best option.
Childcare centres offering such services may impose extra fees due to the extra manpower, utilities and resources involved, thus increasing operating costs, and this may lead to a rise in fees for all parents, even if they do not need such services.
If the service is requested on an as-needed basis, then it could prove too costly for low-income families.
Having extended hours will make it less attractive for young school-leavers and mid-career switchers to join the sector due to the long working hours, shift work, unprofessional status and lack of work-life balance.
As it is, the early childhood sector is already facing a manpower shortage. Currently, there are about 50 centres that are open till 9pm, but the number of parents making use of such service is not significant.
To have staff working at the centre for a very small number of children is unproductive and expensive.
Research has shown that the home environment is the most conducive for children's development. Keeping children in childcare centres for more than the current 12 hours a day is not ideal.
Perhaps it is time for us to consider regulated home-based babysitting services from 7pm to 7am. This would be a good opportunity for retirees to have a new career with caregiver training and additional income.
This will also allow children to have home-cooked meals, short periods of free play or guided TV time and bedtime stories and they will be able to rest well from 9pm onwards. Such a scheduled lifestyle would be more beneficial for young children's development.
Another alternative is to have one separate night-time childcare centre in each estate with a higher adult to child ratio, instead of the current teacher to student ratio.
In addition to reducing operation costs, this option will also allow the centre to be designed appropriately to cater to the night-time needs of young children.
Yeo Hwee Cheng (Ms)