Govt Reviewing Baby Bonus
by Hetty Musfirah Abdul Khamid
SINGAPORE – The Government is reviewing the Baby Bonus scheme, which helps married couples to defray the financial costs of having more children.
MediaCorp has learnt that a survey of some 3,000 beneficiaries is in the works, coming at a time when Singapore’s fertility rate is at a record low.
The Community Development, Youth and Sports Ministry will undertake the survey between April and June to learn how satisfied parents have been with the operational processes and implementation of the scheme, which was introduced in 2001 and enhanced twice in 2004 and 2008.
Observers welcomed the move, but said there should be more comprehensive processes and stronger provisions.
For instance, Professor Gavin Jones, research leader of Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore, would like the survey extended to singles and couples without children yet, to get their perceptions of whether such a scheme would make any difference to marriage or child bearing.
Under the Baby Bonus scheme, which is part of the enhanced Marriage and Parenthood Package that aims to encourage couples to get married and have children, parents are given up to $4,000 each for the first and second child and $6,000 each for the third and fourth child.
The Government also matches dollar-for-dollar when parents contribute to their child’s Children Development Account, capped at a $6,000 matching sum each for the first and second child, $12,000 each for the third and fourth child and $18,000 each for the fifth and subsequent child.
About $230 million in baby bonus payments was given out in 2009, up from $55 million in 2004. But there was no corresponding increase in the total fertility rate, which plummeted further from the replacement rate of 2.1 to 1.16 last year.
Prof Jones said it was time to consider bolder measures, such as free childcare or paternity leave.
“Some European countries with higher birth rates and a higher proportion of women in the workforce allow paternity leave. They allow parents to choose (which spouse takes time off), quite a radical thing that hasn’t been done in Singapore – recognising the husband’s role in child rearing,” he said.
The low birth rate will feature in the upcoming Budget debate, with Government Parliamentary Committee (Community Development, Youth and Sports) chairman Seah Kian Peng set to raise the topic.
“The issue of low TFR (Total Fertility Rate) is a very serious one, so I think we need to think more out of the box, try new things. Some may work, some may not, but I think we should really venture out of the current schemes … and really adopt a whole-of-Government approach, from housing to paternity and maternity leave and certainly the baby bonus scheme,” he said.
One out-of-the-box idea, he suggested, was to give parents who have more children priority for upgrading to a bigger flat.
Source : TODAYonline – MediaCorp Press Ltd’s copyright
no comments yet.