Delinking Childcare Subsidies from Mother’s Employment Status

Parliamentary Question, 4 March 2020

https://www.ecda.gov.sg/Pages/Subsidies-and-Financial-Assistance.aspx

Ms Anthea Ong asked the Minister for Social and Family Development whether the Ministry intends to delink the eligibility criteria of childcare subsidies from the mother’s employment status and, if no, what is the rationale keeping employment status as a criterion.

The Minister for Social and Family Development (Mr Desmond Lee): Mr Speaker, all parents, regardless of their working status, are supported with basic subsidies for childcare for their Singapore Citizen children. As working mothers need childcare while they are at work, the Government provides them with higher basic subsidies, as well as means-tested additional subsidies, if eligible. The mother’s working status is thus a criterion for higher subsidies.

Notwithstanding this, the Government does exercise flexibility where the mother is unable to work and yet requires childcare services. ECDA is planning to provide better subsidy support, especially for low-income families and will announce details at MSF’s Committee of Supply.

Non-working mothers who do not require full-day childcare can enrol their children in half-day kindergartens, which are shorter and often more affordable than full-day childcare programmes. There is, of course, KiFAS, which does not depend on working mother status. Families with children enrolled in kindergartens run by Anchor Operators and MOE may be eligible for means-tested kindergarten subsidies — as I said, KiFAS — which do not depend on the mother’s working status.

So, I urge the Member to wait another day or two.

Mr Speaker: Ms Anthea Ong.

Ms Anthea Ong (Nominated Member): Thank you, Sir. I thank the Minister for the response. Could I just ask, especially given that we are celebrating women this month, is there a reason why we only specify and link this eligibility criterion to the mother’s employment, and not the father’s?

Mr Desmond Lee: The subsidy was intended to support mothers who go to work. And the way to encourage them to return to the labour market, if they wish; and if they do, then, they can be assured that childcare will be supported.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Anthea Ong is a Nominated Member of Parliament. (A Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) is a Member of the Parliament of Singapore who is appointed by the President. They are not affiliated to any political party and do not represent any constituency. There are currently nine NMPs in Parliament.)

The multi-sector perspective that comes from her ground immersion of 12 years in different capacities helps her translate single-sector issues and ideas across boundaries without alienating any particular community/group. As an entrepreneur and with many years in business leadership, it is innate in her to discuss social issues with the intent of finding solutions, or at least of exploring possibilities. She champions mental health, diversity and inclusion — and climate change in Parliament.

She is also an impact entrepreneur/investor and a passionate mental health advocate, especially in workplace wellbeing. She started WorkWell Leaders Workgroup in May 2018 to bring together top leaders (CXOs, Heads of HR/CSR/D&I) of top employers in Singapore (both public and private) to share, discuss and co-create inclusive practices to promote workplace wellbeing. Anthea is also the founder of Hush TeaBar, Singapore’s 1st silent teabar and a social movement that aims to bring silence, self care and social inclusion into every workplace, every community — with a cup of tea. The Hush Experience is completely led by lovingly-trained Deaf facilitators, supported by a team of Persons with Mental Health Issues (PMHIs).

Follow Anthea Ong on her public page at www.facebook.com/antheaonglaytheng

A full-time human, and part-time everything else.

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