By Phoebe Wong - Head of HR Outsourcing, Southeast Asia
Singapore’s declining birth rate is said to be the “biggest threat to its survival”.
In order to promote a good work-life balance and also to solve the problem of the declining birth rate and encourage families to have more children, the government has amended the leave policies in Singapore and made these compulsory. The Prime Minister has also added new benefits including leave and monetary incentives to encourage population growth. The new leave policies are:
- Adoption leave
- Annual leave
- Childcare leave
- Maternity leave
- Paternity leave
- Shared parental leave
- Sick leave
- Unpaid infant care leave
Firstly, mothers will be given 16 weeks (i.e. four months) of maternity leave after the baby is born. The employer can claim the last 8 weeks of these from the government. Hold on though – this is the situation when you have your first and second child.
If you have three or four children, for the birth of the third and fourth children, the employer can claim the full 16 weeks from the government, which is really good news for the employer!
If Dad also wants to experience taking care of the new born baby, he can “borrow” one week from Mum’s 16 weeks’ maternity leave. This one week is called “shared parental leave” and it means Mum will be left with 15 weeks.
Apart from the one week shared parental leave, Dad can also enjoy another one week of paternity leave. This is flexible and can be taken within 12 months after the baby’s birth. There is good news here as well, as the employer will be able to claim the full one week from the government and the cap is $2,500.
If the mother and father still want to take more leave, then “unpaid infant care leave” is one of the options, although it is completely unpaid. Upon mutual agreement between the employer and employee, the employee can take up to six days per year of unpaid infant care leave.
Above are the leave benefits that encourage the Singapore population to have more children. Let’s look at the below monetary and tax benefits that are also quite attractive:
- Baby Bonus Cash Gift
For every child of Singaporean nationality born in Singapore, the parents will receive an upfront cash payment of $8,000 per child, if it is the first or second born child. If it is the parents’ third or fourth child, their cash gift would be $10,000! This bonus helps to cover things such as hospital bills and so on.
- Baby Bonus Child Development Account
This is a dollar-for-dollar matching savings scheme for Singaporean children. These funds can be put towards medical fees, child care fees and so on, which is a great help for parents. The maximum CDA benefit provided by the government is $6,000 for the first and second child, and $12,000 for the third and fourth child.
- Tax Incentive
Singaporean tax residents who are married, divorced or widowed parents can claim a Parenthood Tax Rebate of up to $20,000 per child.
- Working Mother's Child Relief
If a married, divorced or widowed mother works, she can claim her Working Mother's Child Relief, a cash relief based on a percentage of her salary to help with her children's upbringing. This is only applicable to children who are Singapore citizens in order to encourage more parents to give their children Singapore citizenship and to encourage women to remain in the workforce after having children.
These policies and benefits are designed in a way that protects the interests of the parents and their employers. They directly increase the productivity and efficiency of the employee, which in turn is beneficial to the company.
I hope that with all these schemes and benefits, there will be more babies in Singapore and the decline in birth rate will cease over the next few years!