More childcare centres set up in workplaces

A childcare centre in the OCBC building. OCBC was the first bank that offered in-house childcare facilities for its staff in 2007.
A childcare centre in the OCBC building. OCBC was the first bank that offered in-house childcare facilities for its staff in 2007.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

One-third of all centres are in workplaces, compared with 26 per cent five years ago

More children have been joining their parents in their commute to work, with more pre-schools set up in workplaces.

There are 470 childcare centres in workplaces, including in commercial and government buildings and industrial estates - a rise of about 80 per cent from five years ago.

These make up about one-third of all centres in Singapore, up from 26 per cent five years ago.

The number of childcare centres in workplaces here was revealed yesterday by the Early Childhood Development Agency's director for special projects, Ms Charlene Han, during a panel discussion about the benefits that companies can get from offering childcare support.

The increase in the number of workplace-based childcare centres comes amid a rise in the total number of centres here, as the Government works to provide more pre-school places to meet the rising demand for childcare services.

This also follows an enhancement of the Workplace Child Care Centre Scheme in 2013, to allow building owners or employers to apply for grants covering up to half the cost of converting part of their premises into a childcare centre. Previously, only government-owned buildings were eligible. Workplace-based childcare centres include those in Changi Airport, hospitals, and commercial buildings such as NCS Hub and Surbana One.

  • OCBC's facility a hit with staff

  • Ten years ago, OCBC was the first bank in Singapore to offer an in-house childcare facility but just 30 per cent to 50 per cent of the places were taken up initially.

    But after three years, all 110 places were filled and today, there are 70 people on its waiting list.

    The facility, at OCBC Centre in Boat Quay, is run by the bank in partnership with NTUC First Campus, which manages The Little Skool-House childcare centre. Unlike most other such pre-schools, the OCBC facility provides dinner for the children and closes at 7.30pm. Others tend to shut their doors at 7pm.

    Ms Jacinta Low, OCBC's head of human resource planning, told The Straits Times the initial low enrolment may be due to parents wanting to wait and see or not wishing to move their child from another centre.

    The bank's partnership with NTUC First Campus has also expanded. In 2010, a similar centre was set up near the bank's Tampines office. Later this year, another will open at One Marina Boulevard.

    Staff of OCBC get priority and receive a fee discount of about $500 a month. Ms Low said the childcare support allows mothers to return to work and improves employees' engagement with the bank.

    Mr Kenny Ng, 40, an assistant vice-president at the bank who has two children, aged three and six, enrolled at the pre-school, said: "The slightly longer opening hours gives me greater flexibility...I also get to join them during their breakfast at the centre."

    Priscilla Goy

The panel discussion, held at InterContinental Singapore hotel, was organised by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private-sector arm of the World Bank Group. About 30 people attended.

IFC had on Wednesday launched a 261-page report which featured 10 case studies of large businesses, in developed and developing countries, that offered childcare support such as on-site childcare facilities and subsidies for employees.

The report, which did not feature a case study from Singapore, is said to be the first survey of its kind and is part of IFC's effort to address gender gaps in employment.

IFC vice-president of blended finance and partnerships Nena Stoiljkovic said: "While many companies want to support their employees' childcare needs, they often lack information on what they can do and how they might benefit. (This report) fills that gap."

The case studies showed firms offering childcare support saw a substantial fall in staff turnover rates and absenteeism, greater productivity and more women being promoted to leadership positions.

At the discussion, panellists and audience members raised ideas on how to support mothers returning to work, such as providing childcare referral services, parenting resources and support groups.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2017, with the headline 'More childcare centres set up in workplaces'. Print Edition | Subscribe