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MPs call for equal parental leave, better work culture as Bill passed to double paternity leave to 4 weeks

The additional two weeks of government-paid paternity leave will be implemented on a voluntary basis, for fathers of Singaporean children born from Jan 1, 2024.

02:44 Min
Government-paid paternity leave will double from two to four weeks for fathers of Singaporean children born from Jan 1 next year, after a Bill was passed in parliament on Tuesday (Sep 19). Sherlyn Seah tells us more. 

SINGAPORE: Government-paid paternity leave will double from two to four weeks for fathers of Singaporean children born from Jan 1 next year, after a Bill was passed in parliament on Tuesday (Sep 19). 

The Child Development Co-Savings Act was amended in line with announcements made at Budget 2023 by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong. This includes enhancements to paternity payment and reimbursement schemes.

The additional two weeks of government-paid paternity leave will be implemented on a voluntary basis so that employers have more time to adjust, said Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling during her opening speech in parliament on Monday. 

The amended Bill will also allow the government to reimburse employers who grant two additional weeks of paternity leave to eligible employees, she added, doubling the reimbursement limits for employers. 

Under the new laws, the government-paid paternity benefit will similarly be doubled from the current 14 days of an eligible father’s total income to 28 days.

Fathers who do not qualify for paternity leave under the Act because of their employment arrangements may instead be eligible for this benefit, which is a cash payment in lieu of the paternity leave. 

Self-employed fathers will also benefit from the new measures, with the doubling of the limits of the government’s payment to those eligible for their loss of income when they stop working to care for their children.

As announced at Budget 2023, unpaid infant care leave for each parent will also be doubled from six days per 12 months to 12 days per 12 months.

All working parents will be eligible for the additional leave days if they have a Singaporean child below the age of two from Jan 1, 2024.


When government-paid paternity leave was introduced 10 years ago, the take-up rate stood at just 25 per cent. Now, more than half of fathers take paternity leave, or 53 per cent as of 2021. 

The government wants to encourage more fathers to be more involved in their children’s growing years from the very beginning, said Ms Sun on Monday. Research has also shown that children whose fathers are more involved have better outcomes in their physical, cognitive and emotional development.

Local data from the Singapore Longitudinal Early Development Study showed that using paternity leave can increase marital satisfaction, said Ms Sun. 

“It also found that taking a longer duration of paternity leave would significantly reduce children’s behavioural problems through the mediating effects of family dynamics,” she added.

Furthermore, like other advanced societies, Singapore’s total fertility rate – which refers to the average number of live births each woman would have during her reproductive years – has been declining for many years. 

The resident total fertility rate hit an all-time low of 1.04 in 2022, dipping below the previous record of 1.1 in 2020 and 1.12 in 2021.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah, who made the announcement in February, attributed this to the Tiger year in the Lunar calendar, which is “generally associated with lower births among the Chinese”. 

In 2010, which was also a Tiger year, the total fertility rate was 1.15, lower than the years before and after.

Singapore's total fertility rate has been below 1.2 since 2017.


Sixteen Members of Parliament rose to speak on the Bill across Monday and Tuesday, including several newly elected Nominated MPs who gave their maiden speeches. 

While they approved of the changes, some had suggestions to further improve childcare arrangements, especially for more vulnerable sectors of society:

  • Make paternity leave on par with maternity leave, and encourage equal sharing of childcare responsibilities
  • Study and address why some fathers do not use their full paternity leave entitlement
  • Improve work culture so that parents are not penalised, or have slower career progression, for taking parental leave
  • More support and a tripartite standard for flexible work arrangements
  • Better support for families with children with disabilities and/or special needs
  • Partial subsidy or more support for lower-wage workers taking unpaid infant care leave
  • More support for caregivers of the elderly
  • More flexibility for parents in using funds in their children’s Child Development Account
  • Childcare sick leave on a per-child basis

Ms He Ting Ru (WP-Sengkang) reiterated her party’s call in its 2020 manifesto, where it proposed a shared parental leave scheme that entitles parents to 24 weeks of government-paid leave, to be shared between mothers and fathers as they choose.

Mr Louis Ng (PAP-Nee Soon), who has frequently spoken up for single unwed parents, also asked again if they can be given the cash component of the Baby Bonus.


In her closing speech on Tuesday, Ms Sun noted that the government has surveyed the reasons why fathers do not fully consume their paternity leave, with a key factor being workplace support. 

“This includes whether supervisors are adequately assuring that using paternity leave will not affect fathers’ career prospects and that colleagues are willing to cover fathers’ duties during their absence,” she said. 

34:25 Min

In Parliament on Tuesday (Sep 19), Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling responded to clarifications sought by MPs on the Child Development Co-Savings (Amendment) Bill. The Bill was then approved in the House.

Responding to questions about the government’s efforts in encouraging fathers to use paternity leave and the importance of shared parental responsibilities, Ms Sun stressed that it is important for society to embrace paternal involvement from the start. 

The government has worked with community partners to strengthen family ties and resilience, with the aim of increasing marriage stability, as well as advocating the importance of shared parenting and household responsibilities between mothers and fathers, said Ms Sun. 

In response to questions about the equalisation of parental leave, Ms Sun noted that the current provisions for maternity leave and paternity leave are differentiated to meet the respective needs of the parents.

“Maternity leave is provided for mothers to recuperate physically from childbirth and care for and bond with their children,” she added. 

“Hence, it is longer than paternity leave, which allows for fathers to care for their wives and bond with their newborn child. This is also why maternity leave is longer than adoption leave.” 

The government does not intend to change the current shared parental leave provisions, said Ms Sun. 

On whether childcare leave can be increased, Ms Sun said that the difficulty in doing so was “not so much the cost to government” but the difficulties faced by employers and businesses when leave is made compulsory. 

Based on the current increase in paid paternity leave and unpaid infant care leave, employers are already concerned that the increased leave provisions will adversely impact manpower costs and operations, she added.

Addressing questions on childcare sick leave, Ms Sun noted that the civil service currently provides childcare sick leave on a per-child basis, while 27 per cent of private companies in 2020 voluntarily provided additional paid childcare sick leave to employees. 

Parents with more children will require more leave to take care of them if they fall ill, she acknowledged, encouraging private sector employers to consider providing childcare sick leave on a per-child basis.

“This can greatly alleviate parental stress from taking care of more children,” she added. 

Source: CNA/lt/hw(sn)


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