SINGAPORE: It will soon be compulsory to report the birth of every child in Singapore, as well as still births and deaths, after proposed changes to the Registration of Births and Deaths Act were passed in Parliament on Tuesday (Jul 6).
The reporting process comes before registration.
Previously, the law required parents or family members to register births, still births and deaths, but it did not impose a mandatory reporting requirement.
For reporting births, the changes affect mainly babies born outside a hospital. In such cases, parents have to report the birth as soon as possible, in person at the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA).
Those who fail to do so could face a fine of up to S$1,500 and jailed for up to a month.
Births in hospitals will continue to be reported to the Registrar-General (RG) of Births and Death, under an administrative arrangement. This includes children taken to the hospital within 24 hours of being born.
Outlining the key changes in Parliament, Minister of State for Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said: "The reporting of a birth, death or still birth is an important first step, it alerts the relevant authorities to the occurrence of the event. After a birth, death or still birth is reported, the next step is registration."
He added that the changes to the Act, which was enacted in 1937, will "significantly increase" convenience for the public, as it streamlines the reporting and registration processes.
This is important for policymaking and the provision of public services such as education and housing, he added.
Previously for births outside hospitals, almost anyone, including a proxy on behalf of the parents, could provide the child's birth particulars to ICA for registration within 42 days from the date of birth.
With the changes, only parents or people who are legally appointed can register the birth of a child.
A legally appointed person refers to the legal guardian of a child, the Director-General of Social Welfare or the protector for a child who has been appointed under the Children and Young Persons Act, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
For births that are not registered or in cases of incomplete applications, the RG will have the power to register the birth.
Assoc Prof Faishal said that the additional power is important for the welfare of children born in Singapore.
“It ensures that every child is given a legal identity and his or her presence is made known to other government agencies to allow for government intervention or support, if necessary,” he said.
As for deaths, relatives will no longer need to provide the particulars of the dead person at the registration centre.
Instead, the death will be automatically registered by the RG, once a medical practitioner certifies the death online.
A digital notification will be sent to the relative to download the digital death certificate, which can be accessed through My Legacy, a website that provides information and services on post-death matters.
There will also be no need to surrender the dead person’s identity card (IC) as it will automatically be deemed invalid once the death is registered. However, family members should destroy the IC so as to ensure that it is not misused.
All deaths will have to be reported to a medical practitioner as soon as possible. This includes deaths that occur on an aircraft, vessel or train bound for Singapore.
The changes to the law will empower authorities to register a local death, if the body is destroyed, irrecoverable or cannot be located.
This is provided that the Registrar-General is satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to identify the person and that the death occurred in Singapore.
NO ADDITIONAL COSTS INCURRED
Responding to questions from Members of Parliament Derrick Goh (PAP-Nee Soon) and Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (PAP-Chua Chu Kang) on whether the new process for registering deaths will result in increased fees since doctors will have to submit the certificates online, Assoc Prof Faishal said ICA and public hospitals will not charge extra fees for death registration under the streamlined process.
“While the government is not able to dictate the fees charged by private hospitals and general practitioners who make house visits to certify deaths, we note that private hospitals and general practitioners will continue to use the same ICA electronic service which they are already using to certify deaths online currently," he said.
"Hence, we do not expect the cost incurred by the private hospitals and general practice practitioners to increase,."