Why Singaporean Women are Sceptical of the Government’s Marriage and Parenthood Incentives

Joanne Poh



The authorities have finally recognised the obvious—that the various incentives designed to convince Singaporeans to get married and have more kids are simply not working. And lo and behold, women have been singled out as the ones being sceptical of the marriage and parenthood incentives.

So once again, the debate rages on, and even though the real reasons are painfully obvious to anyone in Singapore who’s paying attention, the authorities continue to scratch their heads in bewilderment. Here are a couple of reasons why women are as sceptical as they say:


They think their boss’s attitudes aren’t going to change

Even if they’re statutorily entitled to maternity and childcare leave, many ladies in Singapore know that taking it in full isn’t going to score any points at work. By and large, the marriage and parenthood incentives have failed to change boss’s attitudes towards not being physically present at work or leaving work for child-related matters, and this puts new mothers in a difficult position.

Lorraine, a 31-year-old mother of one with another on the way, says, “If my colleagues do more work than me, I can understand if my boss promotes them before me. But when I have to go for medical checkups during pregnancy, even though I come back to the office after that and work till late, effectively doing the same amount of work as before, in my bosses’ eyes I have put family above work and this affects my appraisals and bonus, never mind that I am doing just as much work as everyone else.”


The cost of living will outpace the monetary incentives

Most mothers I’ve spoken with agree that the Baby Bonus is fairly generous (you’re essentially getting $6,000 in free cash from the government not counting the various subsidies). But in the grand scheme of things, $6,000 is chump change compared to the real costs not only of raising a child in Singapore but simply of surviving in a city that’s seen costs rise astronomically over the past 10 years.

But this is cold comfort for mothers like Natalie, a 31-year-old teacher and mother of two. “I would have had my two kids even without the incentives, because I can afford to. But if I couldn’t afford to, I wouldn’t have had my kids, even with the incentives in place. I don’t want my kids just to survive, I want to give them the best, and that costs a lot more than the Baby Bonus,” she says.


They don’t think paternity leave will relieve their burden

Despite the fact that husbands may now be entitled to share in their wives’ government-paid maternity leave, many women are still sceptical according to news reports. This is quite revealing about the way many couples view the man’s role in a family—as the breadwinner and as the one whose career has to succeed at all costs. Women still tend to fall out of employment in their 30s for child rearing as opposed to their male counterparts. And men still fall behind when it comes to helping out around the house.

Huimin, a 29-year-old public relations executive who is pregnant with her first child, expects to take on most of the child-rearing duties even when she returns to work. Her husband, a 32-year-old lawyer, works long hours and only returns home from work at 9 or 10pm on average. “While I have my own career, at the moment my husband is still earning a larger share of our combined income, and I can’t expect him to abandon his clients to come home and look after the baby. My in-laws will be looking after the baby when I’m at work but after work I’ll be the one taking care of the kid,” she says.


They want the best for themselves and their children

The shrinking size of the Singaporean family can be partly attributed to parents’ desire to be able to afford the best for their children. And if means forgoing having another child, so be it.

Jennifer, who is in her 40s and has a 13-year-old daughter, decided not to have more kids in order to be able to spend more time and money on her existing child. “My daughter goes for golf training and has tuition in 4 subjects,” she says. “If I had more than one kid I wouldn’t be able to give my daughter as much. At least in this way if my daughter needs something my husband and I know we have the resources to help her.”

Do you think the Marriage and Parenthood Incentives will help to boost Singapore’s birth rate? Tell us why or why not 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.