Support for paternity leave reaps gains on several fronts

Posed photo of a father and his child.
Posed photo of a father and his child.PHOTO: NP

It is heartening to read about President Halimah Yacob's call for employers to better support fathers so they can play a more active role in their children's lives (Firms should do more to get fathers to go on paternity leave: President, July 15).

Indeed, more young fathers in Singapore are taking up the day-to-day responsibilities of caring for their children and being involved in their school activities.

This is perhaps due to the changing expectations of shared responsibilities among young, dual-income families, as well as a greater recognition of the important role fathers play in a child's upbringing.

Within five years, the take-up rate for paternity leave in Singapore has more than doubled - from 25 per cent in 2013 to 53 per cent today. This progress is testament to the good work done by the Government, the support from employers, as well as the readiness of society to embrace increased paternal involvement.

It is, however, surprising to read about how Singapore lags behind Nordic countries when it comes to new fathers taking paternity leave.

While the take-up rate has not reached the 70 per cent to 80 per cent levels seen in Nordic countries, it is pertinent to note that these countries had a head start and have significantly different societal and work cultures.

Taking these factors into view, the paternity leave take-up rate we have seen in Singapore is even more admirable.

This is something the Government should further encourage and support.

Being able to successfully manage family and work, and achieving work-life harmony, are not just good for employees, but in the longer term, will help companies attract better talent and be more productive.

Perhaps it could even help raise Singapore's birth rate to a more sustainable level.

Deborah Ong Siew Mei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2019, with the headline 'Support for paternity leave reaps gains on several fronts'. Print Edition | Subscribe