SINGAPORE: The National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) is aiming to help fathers play a more active role in raising their children this year, said Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Josephine Teo on Monday (Jan 4).
She was speaking at the PAP Community Foundation's Sparkletots Preschool in Bishan North, where she welcomed about 60 students back to school.
Raising awareness among employers to implement the extra week of paternity leave will be one way to achieve this, according to Mrs Teo, who oversees the NPTD. The voluntary scheme has seen a low take-up rate among companies, said Mrs Teo.
The civil service and some large organisations have done so, but more can come on board, she added.
However, Member of Parliament Tin Pei Ling said mandating schemes such as extra paternity leave may not be straightforward.
She explained: “From a parent’s perspective, having paternity leave mandated, I think, would of course be good news. But I also think we have to take many different things into consideration. Firstly, if we look at today’s manpower context, it’s a tight labour market. Employers and businesses are facing many different pressures. If we force them too hard, I’m not sure it would be a help to employees themselves."
Reaching out to these organisations also ties in with the division's other key priority for the year: To enhance workplace and community support for all parents, Mrs Teo said.
Said Mrs Teo: "Whether it is to send them to school, look after the children when they are not so well, or attend to the many things you have to do as a parent, this community of support - particularly from employers but also with regard to commercial organisations and educational institutions - I think it is the kind of culture we want to strengthen."
The NPTD will also work on availing more affordable, good quality childcare, Mrs Teo said.
In a note posted on Facebook on Monday evening, Mrs Teo said: "Under Early Childhood Development's (ECDA) Masterplan, we are on track to provide sufficient child care places for one in two children by 2017."
She added that in the last 12 months alone, child care capacity has increased by about 13,000 places or 110 additional centres.
Ms Tin, who is also deputy chairperson for the Government Parliamentary Committee for Social and Family Development, suggested exploring other options, such as forming a "database" of nannies.
"These identified nannies would come under maybe a registry or something within the database of the parent ministry," said Ms Tin. "They would have undergone some form of refresher course, and perhaps would go through some basic form of screening so that there is some assurance that they have the know-how to take care of children."
Ms Tin added that this would give confidence to young couples who are thinking of alternatives to childcare centres.
In the Facebook note, Mrs Teo also described helping couples "get hitched" as a "tough nut which is hard for the Government to crack".
"Young Singaporeans are often busy with multiple pursuits - studying, establishing their careers etc – all of which are meaningful," said Mrs Teo. "Do they also set aside time and to seek out a life partner, perhaps with the help of friends and family? Movies and books sometimes give the misimpression that true love simply 'finds you'. But can we leave something so important simply to 'chance'?"
She also invited the public to share their thoughts on the topic.