NTUC calls for higher childcare subsidies to help middle-income parents

The median full day fees for childcare rose from $720 a month in 2011 to $883 in 2017, according to figures provided by NTUC.
The median full day fees for childcare rose from $720 a month in 2011 to $883 in 2017, according to figures provided by NTUC.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - The labour movement on Thursday (Feb 15) called for higher childcare subsidies for middle-income working parents, to help them cope with rising costs.

In a statement issued ahead of Budget 2018, the National Trades Union Congress noted that childcare fees have gone up in recent years.

The median full day fees for childcare rose from $720 a month in 2011 to $883 in 2017, according to figures provided by NTUC.

While there is a basic childcare subsidy of up to $300 a month for each eligible Singaporean child now, the fee increases are "effectively eroding the significance of existing subsidies", NTUC said.

"Middle income families bear the brunt of this phenomena, where their rising median wages render them inaccessible to additional forms of assistance," NTUC added.

Median monthly household income has gone up from $7,037 in 2011 to $9,023 in 2017.

Noting that the basic subsidy was last reviewed in 2008, NTUC said it is timely for the government to raise the subsidy to keep pace with rising fees.

It also suggested increasing the current household income and household per capita income ceilings for childcare subsidies.

Separately, NTUC also proposed that the Government consider subsidising more working families - up to the 50th percentile household income level - to help middle income families manage the cost of placing their children in student care after school.

Currently, only families with a gross monthly household income of up to $4,000 or household per capita income of $1,000 or less can qualify for subsidies through the ComCare Student Care Fee Assistance Scheme.

"While plans are underway to meet the rising demand for student care services, there remains the current issue of affordability of student care services for middle-income families as these families would also need to balance the needs of both their young and elderly dependents," NTUC said.

It is thus urging the government to raise the household income and household per capita income caps so more families can benefit.

Labour MP Desmond Choo said there is a pressing need for the government and industry partners to "rethink, review and possibly recalibrate existing support nets that may not be as relevant for our working people, particularly the middle income earners who are stretching their hard-earned dollars to meet the demands of multiple liabilities".