SINGAPORE - More than 3,200 households have been placed on a scheme that gives them financial aid to keep their families small since the introduction of the Home Ownership Plus Education Scheme (Hope) in 2004.
About four in 10 of these families have seen an increase in their household income, and the employment rate of the mothers has doubled from 30 to 60 per cent, said Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Low Yen Ling in Parliament on Friday.
She was responding to MP Alex Yam's request for an update and review of the scheme which may, inadvertantly, encourage abortions.
This is because low-income families get generous subsidies- $60,000 in housing grant to be paid out over 20 years, $1,000 in utilities, $6,000 in training incentives and $10,000 for employment incentives - if they keep to having two children and fewer. Over the years, concerns have been raised from members of the public and MPs that needy mothers face the temptation of aborting their third child to remain on the scheme.
"I believe that the policy is one that has moral weight, but not one that places the difficult moral burden on those that seeks to help," said Mr Yam, raising an example of his resident intending to abort her third child in order to continue to get the subsidies.
He asked: "How many children have we potentially lost? How can we better improve this scheme that was set up to provide hope, not take it away?"
In response, Ms Low said Hope couples who decide to have a third child can withdraw from the scheme at any time. They can also tap on other financial assistance schemes for lower income families after they exit the scheme.
"For example, they will continue to be eligible for additional pre-school and student care subsidies, as well as other forms of social assistance, depending on their needs. They are also eligible for the Baby Bonus scheme," she said.