Forum: Societal support critical to raising birth rate

We agree with Dr Yik Keng Yeong and Mr Peh Chwee Hoe that cash benefits alone will not be enough to encourage Singaporeans to start and raise families (Even more needs to be done to encourage having babies, Nov 11; and Rethink the way we tackle low birth rates - concept of family is under threat, Nov 19).

Singapore's Marriage and Parenthood Package has a comprehensive suite of measures comprising not just cash benefits but also housing subsidies, affordable quality pre-schools, healthcare support and paid leave. These measures have been enhanced over the years, taking into account feedback on parents' experiences and needs.

This year, we made pre-school more affordable by increasing the additional subsidy and raising the eligible household income ceiling. Parents having babies from Oct 1 this year to Sept 30, 2022, can also benefit from a $3,000 Baby Support Grant on top of the Baby Bonus.

Working parents with a newborn can enjoy 22 weeks of leave in the child's first year, and paid childcare leave after the first year. We have also been working with employers to strengthen work-life harmony by promoting the adoption of flexible work arrangements (FWAs). The Tripartite Standards on FWAs and on Unpaid Leave for Unexpected Care Needs outline progressive practices that employers are encouraged to adopt to help employees better manage their work and home responsibilities.

Raising our birth rate requires a society that celebrates families and makes parenthood achievable and enjoyable. We agree that positive attitudes towards families cannot be taken for granted. Increasingly, more Singaporeans prioritise other life goals above marriage and parenthood, so it is important to inculcate from a young age positive attitudes towards forming a family. This cannot be achieved by the Government alone and will need the whole community to work together.

The Government is strengthening the appreciation of the value of families among our school students, and will continue to work with partners like Families for Life (FFL), Dads for Life, and Mums for Life to promote family values. In October, as part of FFL's annual "Celebrating our Grands!" initiative, about 280,000 children from 1,100 pre-schools and primary schools showed appreciation for their elderly family members.

We welcome stakeholders to work together with us to build positive mindsets, shape societal norms and provide stronger support for families. Together, we can build a Singapore that is Made For Families.

Fereen Liew (Dr)

Director, Marriage and Parenthood Directorate

National Population and Talent Division

Strategy Group

Prime Minister's Office

Diana Chin

Director, Family Promotion and Partnership Division

Family Development Group

Ministry of Social and Family Development

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