Govt policies must support push to have big families

I have four children under the age of eight, and my wife and I are expecting our fifth child in October. So we agree with the commentary (Give more help to children with more siblings; Aug 14).

There are two issues that have had a significant impact on us in terms of raising a big family.

First, we could not get our first-born into a primary school that was within a short walking distance of our home, as we were not alumni and did not have the time to compete for coveted spots through parent volunteer programmes. My daughter was not successful in the ballot and had to enrol at a school some distance away, incurring transport costs and travelling time.

This is not an ideal situation, especially when all five children eventually start their schooling. My wife and I work. It would be better if our children could walk to school.

Hence, there certainly should be a review of the primary school admissions policy.

Second, the capping of the Working Mother's Child Relief at $80,000 goes against the policy of encouraging people to have more children, and women to join the workforce.

It penalises women with children from doing well in the workforce, when doing so is even more necessary, given the financial needs of a large family.

The expenses of raising five children are immense, and the Baby Bonus and Child Development Account are simply not sufficient in the long term. Every bit of tax relief goes a long way in supporting our children's education and other needs.

The decision to have a big family is a personal one, and we are cognisant of the sacrifice it entails. No amount of incentives can persuade or dissuade my wife and I otherwise.

However, if the Government wants to encourage other couples to have more children, it has to address these practical concerns.

With adequate government support, the challenges of having a big family are not insurmountable.

Rick Chang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2017, with the headline 'Govt policies must support push to have big families'. Print Edition | Subscribe