TL;DR: Budget 2023 offers everything from financial support for families to additional leave for parents
The role families play in our society and the country’s economy is extremely important for they represent both our current and future workforce. With Singapore grappling with the relentless downward trend in fertility coupled with higher life expectancy, the significant deceleration in population growth and a sizeable acceleration in ageing poses a risk to Singapore’s economic growth. Whether it is introducing policies to encourage people to set up families or providing support in terms of work-life, such support will impact families and have a direct impact on the operations and growth of our nation. Budget 2023
“Families form the bedrock of our society and are the anchors of emotional, social, and financial support for all of us.”Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong
Encouraging flexible-work arrangement
NTUC and the government have been active in encouraging employers to adopt the voluntary Tripartite Standard on Flexi-Work Arrangements. Having emerged from the pandemic, many companies are now more progressive and offers flexible work arrangement to embrace the future of work. Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong has also shared in his Budget Speech 2023 on 14 February 2023 that the government is looking to make flexible working arrangements more pervasive by implementing these Tripartite Guidelines by 2024. This would mean that employers will be required to consider staff requests for such flexible-work arrangements fairly and properly. Having flexible-work arrangements is important as it will better support parents in managing their work and family commitments.
Provision of additional childcare support
At this year’s IPS annual Singapore Perspectives Conference, Director of NTUC U Women and Family (U WAF), Ms Yeo Wan Ling shared that there are 260,000 women of economic age who are not in the workforce, due to caregiving responsibilities. To ensure that does not just fall on the shoulders of women, in the Budget Speech 2023 on 14 February 2023, Minister Lawrence Wong has shared that the government will double the Government-Paid Paternity Leave from the current two weeks to four weeks for eligible working fathers of Singaporean children born on or after 1 January 2024.
Considering the existing economic conditions and manpower and operational challenges that employers face, the additional two weeks will be given on a voluntary basis for a start. Employers who are ready to grant the additional leave will be duly reimbursed by the Government. In due course, the provision will be reviewed and made mandatory.
Parents would understand the pains of raising a young child, going to vaccinations one after another and having to attend to the occasional bouts of common cold or ailments their child suffer from when they first start attending school. With the announcement of the doubling of Unpaid Infant Care Leave in the child’s first two years from 6 days to 12 days for each parent, it will provide parents more time to care for their young ones or to attend and settle caregiving arrangements if needed. Like the enhanced Government-Paid Paternity Leave, this scheme will likewise commence from 1 January 2024.
For parents who do not have support from family members in childcare, the government is also working with Anchor Operators to create 22,000 more full-day childcare places and expand the number of MOE Kindergartens. This will help support higher preschool participation rates across the board, and especially among lower-income families who now pay as little as $3 a month for full-day childcare in an Anchor Operator preschool.
Fiscal support for families
Apart from creating work-life harmony which has been one of the top concerns that have emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic, the increased costs of living have also been another area that is at the forefront of couples’ minds when considering starting a family. The government has also ramped up the monetary provisions to families in Budget 2023, to encourage young couples to start a family all while still staying in the workforce.
Budget 2023 has announced an increase in cash support to encourage couples to start families. The Baby Bonus Cash Gift will be increased by $3,000 from 14 February 2023 and structured in a way that the cash gift will be paid out over a longer period so that parents can receive continuous support till their child enters primary school.
Government contributions to the Child Development Account (CDA) for all eligible Singaporean children will likewise see an increase with the First Step Grant increasing from $3,000 to $5,000 and the Government co-matching cap to increase by $1,000 for each child — the Government co-matching cap of $3,000 and $6,000 for the couple’s first and second child, respectively, will be increased to co-matching caps of $4,000 and $7,000.
Additionally, the government has also tweaked the Working Mother’s Child Relief (WMCR) such that lower to middle-income households will receive more grants with the new scheme that takes effect for kids that are born or adopted on or after 1 January 2024, for the Year of Assessment 2025. Currently, the WMCR is pegged at a percentage of the mother’s earned income – 15% for the first child, 20% for the second child and 25% each for the third child and beyond. But with the new scheme, the WMCR will be at a fixed dollar value of $8000 for the first child, $10,000 for the second child and $12,000 each for the third child and beyond.
The key takeaways from the Budget 2023 speech put forth the calls NTUC has been making on the welfare of workers who are considering starting a family or who require support for caregiving needs. It is also reflective of the relentless effort that NTUC U WAF has made in their calls to support women workers who wish to stay or renter the workforce. This is a progressive step forward to allow parents and caregivers to reach their full potential whether it is at work or at home.
“The NTUC U Women & Family have been fighting the good fight to support our women workers stay in the workforce or to renter the workforce should they have caregiving responsibilities at home. I am encouraged that our calls have been heard with the announcement of doubling voluntary paternity leave and unpaid infant care leave. Together with the normalizing of Flexible Work Arrangements, this will go a long way to ensure that caregiving responsibilities are shared and our women workers can reach their full potential in the workplace or at home!”Director of NTUC U WAF, Ms Yeo Wan Ling
Having seen the provisions by the government for families in Budget 2023, has it encouraged you to start or expand your family? As a caregiver, do you feel more secure and supported venturing or staying in the workforce? Share some of your concerns and aspirations with NTUC at conversations.ntuc.sg for NTUC to understand your needs and champion your interests.