Why It Matters

Give same benefits to single mums

For a long time, there have been two types of mothers in Singapore.

One gets full support from the state, including 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, tax benefits and various forms of financial help under the Baby Bonus scheme.

The other gets only half the amount of paid maternity leave and can apply for a Housing Board flat only when she is 35. She does not get tax rebates and her child does not receive Baby Bonus.

Both mothers are Singaporeans who pay their taxes; both have children who will probably grow up to be contributing members of society.

The difference? The former has a child as a married parent while the other is an unwed mother.

The Government has always maintained a clear difference between both types of mothers for fear of sending the wrong signals about marriage and family. There was also the fear of "unintended consequences" of any well-intended policy of equal treatment having the unexpected effect of facilitating single parenthood.

This stance may be changing after Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said on Tuesday that the benefits for single mothers are being reviewed.

While Mr Tan did make plain that any policy changes cannot appear to encourage having children outside of marriage, he also said he did not think any changes would "open the floodgates" to having more unwed mothers.

This latest move will give much cheer to single mothers, many of whom struggle to make ends meet and take care of their children at the same time.

As a start, in 2013, unwed mothers were given the same amount of infant-care and childcare leave as their married peers. Now it is time to think about giving the same financial and maternity leave benefits to single mums, who arguably need even more help than their married peers. After all, every child is precious and more so for Singapore, where policymakers have struggled to lift the fertility rate.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2015, with the headline 'Same benefits for single mums'. Print Edition | Subscribe