05 August 2008

The state should pay for maternity leave and provide childcare

Anticipating the theme of this year's National Day Rally, the government is likely to announce more measures to boost the birthrate, but they will likely be parsimonious half-measures. Full essay.


Anonymous said...

That is the problem with our govt. Where it comes to economic gain, increased revenue for Govt - they will go all out. But where such areas like better child care, compulsory kindergarten, fixing seat belts in minivan, the govt like to pussy foot around, no balls to carry out what is necessary, cos it will be a drain on the govt coffers....

Anonymous said...

As someone who works in the early education industry i wonder about the effect on the personal lives of early educators, some of who are based in the kindergarten system and some of who are based in the childcare system as teachers. It's easy to ask for 24/7 childcare but if its put in place, then what about the adults who have to work under those circumstances. How would the shifts be divided up, would a married woman with children get preference over a single woman for day shifts ?? I think a lot of people in the 'childcare system are actually teachers who have a certain idea of their duties, being a babysitter for parents who work the night shift not being one of them.

I think a better thing would be chidcare facilities run from home. This would be different from educational facilities and then main purpose would be to provide a place for the child to stay until the parents are ready to pick him/her up. This area could be take up by women who are married and out of the workforce looking after their own children. It would also provide them with an income of sorts.

Another thing being that the state should really take a look at the early childhood teachers payscale. A fresh teacher with a degree gets pobably less than $1600 for a full time job, and the amount decreases with qualification level unless experience is counted in. Even then its very difficult to break the $2000 mark even with experience unless one has a principal or supervisory role. Compare that with the payscale that teachers from expat kindergartens get and you'de be surprised.

yuen said...

I doubt the birth problem can be solved so easily; the suggested measures would only have minor positive effects - part of the reason officials are reluctant to back them in a big way; they will need to see how the small steps work first

a seemingly unrelated issue: welfare for old people - there is the complaint of the "sandwich class" who need to physically take care of as well as financially their parents, at the same time coping with the stress of raising children; helping the old people would make the young feel less insecure

(since you discussed Walter Woon a little while ago: he proposed the Maintenance of Parents Bill, which most people are glad to have forgotten; at the time it might have been intended to make people feel more positive about becoming parents, but it actually only added to the feeling of stress of the sandwich class)

Anonymous said...

Well written.
You are right about many points. There is simply no conducive infrastructure around bringing up kids here. Mandating a 12 month maternity or some paternity leave isn't going to solve the problem and passing the cost to the employer only adds to the fear of losing one's job to another foreigner who is willing not to have kids here to get that job. This will be counter-productive.
End-to-end childcare, pre-school education, geez.. even afterschool care has to be taken into account to acoomodate working parents. What with the need for later retirement, which grandparent is available to provide this free service?
If the whole infrastructure is not looked at, it will be just lip service.
The SS

Xtrocious said...

Looks like the government literally needs to be a "nanny state"...hahah

But jokes aside, declining birth rates are due to many other reasons - I suspect a lot are of the economical kind

It is just too expensive to start a family, let alone have kids...

Terence said...


Please allow me some comments. Firstly, admittedly I didnt read through your whole piece, in fact only here and there amounting to I believe only a third or maybe a quarter.

Irrespective of whatever suggested proposals for the subject of giving birth and bringing up children, you may think that asking the govt pay for this pay for that should be right, then let me give you a GENTLE BUT HUGH REMINDER - at the end of the day, ITS STILL TAXPAYORS HARD-EARNED MONEY $$$$.

Lets not go into more details nor pros and cons - refrain from examining what the Govt said, and its going to say: WHAT actually is the NUB of the problem ?? Tell me. Why is the nation's birthrate that bloody pathetic (forget about saying it’s a universal problem of developed countries)??

I am very very interested to see who really does look into this often-times-brought-up subject comprehensively and objectively, but sadly NONE has come out thus far.

I am no expert nor can I write very well to say what I wanted and what I want to say further.

But I do have a firm convicted belief to highlight - generations back, zero incentives were given, zero previleges were given, and yet YOUR parents and mine, YOUR grandparents and mine gave birth to tons of kids (many grown up to be good citizens). Why is it so??

Simple answer which I believe firmly so - its love for you and me that’s why we are here, specifically your parents loved enough to bring you into existence, not dollars and cents.

If its dollars and cents - how much are yoou worth??

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Spore's birthrate is at a all-time low. The last baby boom was in 1988 (year of the dragon - an auspicious year) - a good 20 years ago! Add to that is about 1000 Sporeans have given up their citizenship each year for the last 3 years. The number of Sporeans applying for Good Conduct Certificates from the govt must also be increasing if the crowds at the Cantonment Police HQ are any indication.
To a casual & detached observer, he would be saying, 'You've got a really serious problem there!'
It would be really easy to point a finger and say that it is the inadequate maternity leave and childcare services in response to the nation's fertility crisis. Or is it not? or is it another micromanagement issue which the govt is so good in.
The reality is not so simple. The fact is that the whole system is in deep problem. First, a good proportion (over 40%) of adult population (between 30-44 yr old) are singles! A third of Sporeans that are of marriagable & procreational age will remain single for life.
Secondly, the migration cut off age is at 45 yr old (Australia) and 50 yrs old (Canada). This means that a good proportion of Sporeans who have migrated are aged 45 and below - of an age where procreation is still possible.
Thirdly, the life expectancy of Sporeans have increased thus expanding the over 55 yr group. These are a non-procreational group and migration is out of the question for them!
Taking these 3 together, the big picture is that Spore is aging rapidly with a growing proportion of the aged; it is losing their skilled, productive and procreation-able people to other countries & those that remained here choose to stay single for life.
Spore's "economic growth at all cost" model, 24-hour economy - can these be operated without people? The easy solution, of course, was to allow new immigrants in. It worked for a while but it suppressed wages & extended working hours as employers could exploit them unlike locals - you see, they owed a lot of money to the immigration agents to get here. The counter effect was it created immense pressure for local to emigrate out of Spore - why do we have to work so hard, have no job security and be paid a pittance! After 2-3 yrs after paying off their debts, the new immigrants thought they could seek better paying work. Lately, many of them are leaving due to the escalating cost of living here. The problems (social strains, age discrimination, job insecurity, demographic collapse, personal stress and general destruction of happiness) will still be there!
You see, childcare assistance only takes care of the early childhood problems. It will not increase the birth rate rate. The Spore educational system is a major causal factor for procreation and/of emigration of Sporeans. It is every parent's wish is for their children to go to university & at an affordable costs. Why make it so hard for Sporeans to go the university? Why do the govt prefer to give NUS/NTU scholarships to foreigners & forced locals to pay for inferior private sector universities? Why?
Unless the govt go to the root of the poor birth rate - these problems will not only remain but escalate over time. Whose is going to pay the govt for their million dollar salaries if there is no one to work the economy!

family man said...

I think the govt is seriously on the wrong track. Please consider the following :
1) Taiwan is considering removing National Service for its citizens under the new premier. That would be a one big incentive for people with sons not to migrate and boost local population.
2) I came from a holiday in turkey. Over there university education is FREE. Why can't we, a first world nation provide free education to all her children and develop them to the best potential. All this talk of 'targetted help' is just BS - we have billions invested in water dams at Marina south, what is wrong with this govt where such monies are pisplaced?
3) Free insurance for all kids. Again Govt holds out much incentives for people to have children. And all babies will be automatically insured, but the parents need to pay with their CPF. But if your kid is born with congenital illness, sorry, friend, no insuarance and you are all on your own. My view, no body wants to purposefully give birth to a 'defective' child and be a burden to the government, but you get the train of thoughts that our PAP govt has - good baby, good economic digit, good citizen. Defective baby, it has nothing to do with the govt and you are out on your own.
Govt with its billions should pay and insure all children.
Imagine, if a Ganga and Jamuna were in our midst - our citizens will be moved to donate too, but i think our govt should recognise its role in wanting more babes and footing the bill as well.
4) Compulsory subsidised kindergarten fees. All kids should also have compulsory kindergarten schooling, as least up to PAP fees level. How many people complain about the exhorbitant pre school fees? $50 at least, compared to $4 in primary school? Why this big difference?
Many more things that PAP can do.
And this kiam siap (stingy) govt will roll out these goodies only to 'new babies' born 9 months after the pro-baby announcement on his National Day speech, again showing how insincere they are to the citizens at large....really calculative govt, breeding a similarly calculative kiasu collective citizens mentality, which again drives other citizens to give up their citizenship...sigh.

Anonymous said...

To Family Man,
1. These days National Service is a waste of taxpayer resources & national servicemen time - nowadays our young are weak kneed soldiers; can't even do 5km run these days - run can die! Also low birth rate means SAF can't raise a battalion of fighting men. SAF got so many scholars at the top rank - BGs, LT. Cols - but no soldiers. Many chiefs, No indians! Academic focus means only scholar officers got career path; career soldiers either forced to retire early (like a SAF warrant officer who was forced into early retirement & complained in ST Forum) or have their career "hentak kaki" - suffer stagnation, no promotion. Today, the SAF is a demoralized army unlike the early days of NS when the Israelis trained SAF men.

2. Govt spend a lot of money on foreign scholarships. They rather spend taxpayer's money on some Malaysian, China-man, India-man rather than on Spore-born locals. When the Sporeans go overseas for their university education, they don't want to come back! After serving their scholarship bond - the foreigners return to their own country. At the end, the govt really lose-lose on both. Real stupid policy!

This Govt only want to hear good news. No one can criticize them! When Mr Brown wrote his satirical article on Spore high cost of living on Today paper. He got hammered by MITA while Today paper got frighten & quickly showed him the door. The participants of the recent Tak Boleh Tahan event - many of them are facing court appearance!
The best part is the PRC Chinamen are returning because they find Spore's cost of living unbearable - 'Tak Boleh Tahan'!

Anonymous said...

George says:
That bit about the kid's diet made me recall a real story about a friend of mine. Her child was being looked after by a childless couple. Ever week my friend and her hubby would provide lots of nutritious food - meat, expensive fish, veg etc to the couple to cook for her child.

After a while she notice that her child would crave for plain rice/porridge whenever they brought her home in the evening. She was puzzled but did not think further about it, until one day, she dropped in unexpectedly on the couple during the day and discovered that instead of the expensive fish she had bought and given to the couple to cook for her child, the poor child was in reality being fed instant noodles, day in day out.

Who do think had been consuming those expensive stuff my friend provided to the couple for her child?