Singapore's government unveiled on Monday a raft of incentives for citizens to get married and have babies. The enhanced marriage and parenthood package announced by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean raises the money couples receive for having children and introduces paternity leave. A bigger baby bonus cash gift of $6,000 will be given for the first two births and $8,000 for the next two births from $4,000 and $6,000, respectively.
A CPF Medisave account of $3,000 will also be created for each Singaporean baby "to further support parents in planning for their children's healthcare need" and to encourage MediShield enrolment, the government said in a press release. MediShield will be extended to cover congenital and neonatal conditions effective from the start of March this year. To help couples balance work and family commitments, government plans to legislate one week of paternity leave for fathers, who will also be able to share one week of their wife's maternity leave entitlement.
Parents with children aged 7-12 will get two days of government-paid child care leave annually. Also, to help couples start families earlier, the government announced measures for them to get housing faster. First-timer married couples will get priority allocation of new HDB flats and such couples with children will be allowed to rent a flat from HDB at affordable rental rates while waiting for their flats to be completed. “Addressing our falling birth rate requires a concerted effort beyond Government initiatives. We will continue to work with the community to strengthen positive attitudes towards family life. We hope that the enhanced Marriage & Parenthood measures will help create a more conducive environment for Singaporeans to set up families,” said Teo.
The budget for the enhanced package will be raised to $2 billion a year from the $1.6 billion budget for the 2008 package. The slew of new measures comes as Singapore grapples with an ageing population, one of the lowest total fertility rates in the world at 1.2 in 2011 and a reliance on a large pool of foreign workers that has resulted in much grumbling from its home-grown citizen population. The announcement was also made less than a week before the country's largest single-member constituency, Punggol East, goes to the polls in a closely-watched by-election that is said to be a test for the ruling People's Action Party.