What Else Should the Government be Doing to Support Unwed Mothers?

Joanne Poh


Single mothers in Singapore have long received the short end of the stick in Singapore, with pro-family policies basically giving them the finger and sending the message that their offspring are not the kind we want here, thank you very much.

But in light of recent announcements by the government that unwed mothers will soon get to receive government-paid maternity leave and set up a Child Development Account or CDA just like everyone else, it seems that things are going to change… or are they?

The fact is that even if the proposed changes do get pushed through, unwed mothers are still at a huge disadvantage to nuclear families that uphold “social norms”. Here’s what needs to change before we can even think of calling ourselves a developed society.


Baby Bonus

While much has been said about allowing working mothers to open a CDA, the authorities have been strangely silent about the Baby Bonus.

You need to understand the difference between contributing to the CDA and receiving this Baby Bonus to realise how single mothers are disadvantaged in the area.

The Baby Bonus is a lump sum that is paid to parents in tranches when they have a kid. You get $8,000 for your first child and second child each, and $10,000 for your third and subsequent kids.

At present, nobody has mentioned that single mothers will be able to benefit from the Baby Bonus, so we can assume that they and their children will be at a huge disadvantage from the outset.

In being able to open a CDA, on the other hand, they’ll be able to take advantage of having any money they deposit into it matched by the government dollar-for-dollar, up to a maximum of $6,000 each for the first and second children, $12,000 for the third and fourth children and $18,000 for the fifth and subsequent children.

So if a single mother deposits $6,000 into the CDA, she’ll receive an additional $6,000, just like a married couple would.

While it might seem like the only thing the single mother misses out on is the Baby Bonus lump sum at the start, in reality this disadvantage can also have an impact on how much she can afford to deposit into the CDA.

If she can’t cough up $6,000 of her own savings to deposit into the CDA, she’s effectively losing out on an additional $6,000 the government would have paid into the account, thereby widening the gap further.


Tax rebates and relief

While a slew of tax rebates and relief help married couples defray the cost of having a kid, single mothers do not get to take advantage of any of that.

We’ll let the details do the talking—here are some forms of tax relief that are open only to married women and not single mothers.

  • Parenthood tax rebate
  • Qualifying child relief
  • Handicapped child relief
  • Working mother’s child relief
  • Grandparent caregiver relief

Something’s not right here. Virtually all single mothers are “working mothers” because, uh, if they don’t work for their family nobody else will. Yet working mother’s child relief is only open to married mothers.

In addition, a mother’s single parent status surely does not take away the burden of caring for a child or the heavier burden of caring for a handicapped child. Yet no tax relief is offered on account of children of single mothers, whether handicapped or not.



A single mother and child are not treated as a family unit in the eyes of the HDB. This means single mothers are not eligible for any of the grants married couples under 35 can receive to help them purchase their first home. To put things into perspective, the housing grants for married couples can be as much as $80,000, whereas the maximum singles can qualify for is $35,000.

To make matters worse, single mothers aren’t even eligible to buy HDB property until they hit 35. In theory they can buy private property, but we all know how affordable that is.

When they do reach the ripe old age of 35, they’re not eligible for priority when balloting for a BTO. Instead, they’re made to fight with all of the other single people, so essentially, they’re stuck between two very huge mountains.


Still not enough?

A lot has been said about the fact that many of the subsidies out there are available to parents whether single or married. That includes childcare and infantcare subsidies, education subsidies, Medisave grants and the Edusave Fund.

But let’s face it, single mothers are often the ones who need the most help, being unable to rely on a spouse or in-laws in times of difficulty. Married couples have the option of stay-at-home parenting or part-time work. For single mothers, this isn’t a possibility.

By denying single mothers the Baby Bonus and the ability to buy affordable housing, we’re putting their children at a huge disadvantage, especially in their early years before school starts.

If we’re truly a meritocratic society, that means all kids should have an equal shot at a decent life. But clearly, the underlying sentiment seems to be that some kids are still valued more than others. This needs to change sooner rather than later.

What changes should be made to help unwed mothers? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.