SINGAPORE: To give families and babies an extra push, the Government will help couples live closer to their parents, enhance the Baby Bonus, increase the Medisave Grant and give fathers more paternity leave.
Announcing this at the National Day Rally on Sunday (Aug 23), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the latter three measures would apply with effect from January 1 this year - so that all the Jubilee babies born this year would enjoy the "ang pow" (red packet).
The Government will make the incentives for couples to stay near their parents or their married children more generous, with a Proximity Housing Grant. It will apply in the purchase of a resale flat, and every Singaporean household will be eligible, whether first-time buyer or not. Details will be announced later.
Among the policies announced at #ndrsg to give families and babies an extra push: A Proximity Housing Grant, available to every Singaporean household. http://bit.ly/1JdJMd1Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Sunday, 23 August 2015
The amount of the Baby Bonus will be increased, to help defray child-raising costs. Moreover, it will be extended to every child, and not just to the first four children. This will provide more support for parents with larger families, said Mr Lee.
The Government will also increase the Medisave Grant for newborns. This will be enough to cover MediShield Life premiums for the child until age 21, and help with other healthcare expenses such as recommended vaccinations, he said.
As for paternity leave, the Government will pay for one more week of leave for fathers - making it a total of two. "Please don't go and play golf!" quipped Mr Lee to laughter from the audience.
This longer paternity leave will be implemented on a voluntary basis initially, to give companies and employers time to adjust. "Of course the Public Service will volunteer straightaway," said Mr Lee.
Fathers currently can also share one week out of the 16 weeks of maternity leave that mothers get.
Speaking to Channel NewsAsia after the Rally, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu acknowledged that private sector companies do have to manage a tight labour situation. She said the Government will encourage companies that are "more enlightened, or more prepared" to get things rolling with extended paternity leave.
"And I think once you have a critical mass, it will set the tone because the labour market is competitive and we hope that with some big employers leading the way, the others will have to follow in order to attract talent and to retain talent," she said.