Supply of childcare and student care (MSF)

The government also needs to invest more resources into improving the supply, accessibility, affordability and quality of student care. Childcare needs do not suddenly change when a child enters Primary One; parents still need to work and the child is still unable to care for himself. Student care should be seen as a natural extension of childcare. This will help both parents to remain in the workforce and reduce the demand for foreign maids, while providing a safe and nurturing environment for the children.

My speech in Parliament during the Committee of Supply debate for the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

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Childcare is one of the biggest concerns of parents with young children. Many still face long waiting lists when registering their children and may end up having to settle for more expensive centres situated further from their homes. For this reason, I am looking forward to the 200 new childcare centres that are in the pipeline over the next 5 years.

While a lot of focus is on childcare, and rightly so, the government also needs to invest more resources into improving the supply, accessibility, affordability and quality of student care.

Childcare needs do not suddenly change when a child enters Primary One; parents still need to work and the child is still unable to care for himself. Student care should be seen as a natural extension of childcare. This will help both parents to remain in the workforce and reduce the demand for foreign maids, while providing a safe and nurturing environment for the children.

I would like to suggest that student care be brought under the purview of the Early Childhood Development Agency, so that the government can better regulate and promote the sector.

I welcome the government’s move to increase the number of school-based student care centres (SCCs). However, SCCs should not only be set up within schools, as parents with children attending different schools will have to rush to multiple locations to pick up their kids after work before the 7pm closing time.

Some of the new SCCs should be located in housing estates and near MRT stations, to make them more accessible. The government should also provide subsidies for student care, in addition to the ComCare fee assistance for the low-income, just like it does for childcare, as this will ease the financial burdens on many middle-income families.

Childcare leave

Would the Government therefore consider granting parents about two additional days of Government-paid childcare leave for each child under the age of three? This will not only help parents of younger children, but also give greater benefits to parents who choose to have more children. In order to make our childcare leave scheme more effective and equitable, can the Government give all parents of Singaporean children, including single parents, equal childcare leave benefits?

This is a ‘cut’ I delivered in Parliament on 7 March 2013 during the Committee of Supply debate for the Prime Minister’s Office.

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Currently parents of Singaporean children under age seven are entitled to six days of paid childcare leave .

Younger children tend to fall ill more frequently than older children, particularly when they first start attending childcare. One bout of HFMD, which requires the child to stay at home for at least a week, can wipe out an entire childcare leave entitlement for the year. While the law provides for six days of unpaid infant care leave for children under two, the fact that it is unpaid renders it of little value to most employees.

Furthermore, whether a parent has one or three children under age seven, his or her paid childcare leave entitlement is the same.

Would the Government therefore consider granting parents about two additional days of Government-paid childcare leave for each child under the age of three? This will not only help parents of younger children, but also give greater benefits to parents who choose to have more children.

Next, unmarried single parents are entitled to only two days of childcare leave, and employers are not reimbursed for this. It is ironic that single parents have fewer childcare leave benefits, even though they probably need them more than married couples because they have no spouse to share the childcare load with.

In order to make our childcare leave scheme more effective and equitable, can the Government give all parents of Singaporean children, including single parents, equal childcare leave benefits?