SINGAPORE: A second week of paternity leave will be legislated for fathers of Singapore citizen babies born from Jan 1, 2017, announced Senior Minister of State for the Prime Minister’s Office Josephine Teo on Wednesday (Apr 13).
Shared parental leave will also be increased from one to four weeks for children born from Jul 1, 2017, with this month of leave to be shared from the mother’s maternity leave.
Including six days of childcare leave and one week of unpaid infant care leave, fathers will be able to take up to two months of leave within the baby’s first year.
Additionally, adoption leave for mothers will be upped from four to 12 weeks for infants below one year old, effective for children adopted from Jul 1, 2017 onwards. Adoptive fathers will similarly share four weeks of the mother’s adoption leave.
The Government will fully fund the enhancements to the paternity and shared parental leave. For adoption leave, the Government will fund eight weeks and employers will fund four weeks for the first two children. The Government will fund the full 12 weeks for the third and subsequent children.
“We have timed this round of leave enhancements to give employers some time to adjust and plan,” said Mrs Teo. “We hope employers that are in a position to do so, start to extend paternity leave even before legislation kicks in so that parents of children born earlier can also benefit.
“As I shared earlier, the extra benefits should be thought of as important signals to your employees about your commitment towards family-friendly practices.”
PARENTHOOD AS “ACHIEVABLE, ENJOYABLE, CELEBRATED”
Earlier in her speech, Mrs Teo noted that nearly 34,000 Singaporean babies were born last year, the highest in over a decade. Total fertility rate (TFR) last year stood at 1.24, slightly above the average of 1.22 recorded in the first half of the decade.
“I am optimistic because aspirations for marriage and parenthood remain very strong,” she said. “However, there is no silver bullet, no single policy intervention, not even a set of policy interventions that will boost TFR.
“We need the collective efforts of the whole of society, by which I mean employers, co-workers, community organisations, and businesses all being supportive, in words and in deeds.”
Ultimately, people now marry and have kids because they want to, not because they have to, added Mrs Teo.
But she also said that rendering marriage and parenthood “achievable, enjoyable and celebrated” would help individuals in their decision-making.
Hence the Government’s efforts to introduce and improve on schemes like KidStart, Fresh Start Housing, Child Development Account (CDA) First Step, Parenthood Provisional Housing and Work-Life Grant, explained Mrs Teo.
She acknowledged that there were also historical, geographical and socioeconomic factors influencing TFR. “Another factor could be the way society values and celebrates families and children that make people want to have kids,” she said, noting a need to foster positive mindsets in all of society.
“We must as a society continue to celebrate parenthood, celebrate having babies and celebrate families,” added Mrs Teo.