I spoke about it briefly here and here, but at length somewhere else when our PM announced the government’s plans during the National Day Rally speech. Yesterday, as promised, the latest revisions to the Marriage and Parenthood Package was announced (the last round of revisions was rolled out in 2008).
You can find the full details at heybaby.sg (why does the domain name sound like the precursor to a list of bad pick-up lines?), but The Blogfather is inclined to put his two cents’ worth into the changes we’re seeing here.
1. The Government Wants You to Get a Date
In 2008: the Social Development Unit (SDU) for graduate singles, and the Social Development Services (SDS) for non-graduate singles, would be merged into the Social Development Network (SDN).
In 2013: The SDN is (unfortunately) still there.
Though the SDN got thrown into the mix back in 2009, I always approach the idea of a government-sanctioned dating agency with a tinge of sadness. It says a lot about this nation’s ability to date if the government feels the need to come up with a matchmaking scheme just to help us along. But regretfully, I personally know one or two 35-year-old virgins, so I have to concede to the organisation’s necessity, though deep inside I still question its effectiveness (those virgins I know are still virgins, after all).
2. The Government Wants You to Get a Room (Well, Kinda)
In 2008: There were (and still are) a whole slew of schemes and grants in place, including the Fianc?/Fianc?e Scheme that gave rise to using HDB flats for wedding proposals instead of rings, priority queue placements and flat allocations to first-time HDB flat buyers, a staggered downpayment scheme (also for first-timers), and the ability for Singles Grant recipients who subsequently marry on or after 1 August 2004 to top up their grants to the prevailing CPF Family Housing Grant rates of $30-40,000.
In 2013: Add the Parenthood Priority Scheme to that list; married couples with a kid (or more) of 16 years or below get priority if they’re buying a flat for the first time, and they can rent a home from HDB under the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme at between $900-$1,800 while waiting for their Built-to-Order (BTO) or Sale-of-Balance (SBF) flats.
It’s supposed to be the most important part of this slew of revisions, but the new PPS scheme confuses me. Bertha Henson wrote in her blog, “… I reckon the G also has to appease those who have already done their duty, and whose need is greater,” but I agree with the people that told her it isn’t quite going to help those who haven’t got any kids yet. I mean, think about it: wouldn’t you find it really, really quite hard to make babies with your parents or your in-laws in the next room wondering if you were having a private wrestling match?
3. The Government is Making Having Babies Feel Like Striking 4D
In 2008: S$4,000 for first two births, and S$6,000 for third and fourth births
In 2013: S$6,000 for first two births, and S$8,000 for third and fourth births
One dad told me, “No amount of money or benefits will make me want (to have a third child). Period.” While I can completely understand where he’s coming from (he’s shared some disaster stories with me over coffee a few times), The Blogfather (and a mum?here?as well) take the very opposite view — that we have kids regardless of whether there’s money or incentives to be had or not. ?Given the varied response from the already-parents here, and despite the government’s well-intentioned efforts, this latest increase does beg the question: is the thinking behind the baby bonus scheme even right? Or is the government missing the point?
4. The Government is Allowing You to Use Retirement Funds to Pay for Having Your Baby
In 2008: You can use your?Medisave for delivery and pre-delivery expenses. If you opt for an assisted conception procedure, the Government will cover half your bill.
In 2013:?You can still use your?Medisave for delivery and pre-delivery expenses.?And now you can withdraw up to $6,000, $5,000 and $4,000 from Medisave for your 1st, 2nd and 3rd assisted conception procedures respectively. Also, now??the Government will cover 3/4s of your bill.
It frees up some much-needed funds for hospital fees, sure. But it does make me wonder if my country wants me to live past 65, because I really don’t think I’ll have very much money left in my CPF by the time I retire.
The Government Wants Dads In on the Action (But Only For a Little While)
In 2008: Dads? What dads?
In 2013: Oh yeah, dads. Sure thing. Take a week of paternity leave. On us.
Come on, we’ve been begging for this for a long time. And now it’s official, 7 days paternity leave. PAID paternity leave.Then there’s the existing 6 days childcare leave, and you can even
scam?co-share another week from your wife’s maternity leave on top of that. So quick, go make babies! Just, you know, keep it quiet; you don’t want to wake your parents. But in all seriousness, guys, it’s an earnest start in recognising the father’s role in the family. And the way I see it, this won’t be the last we hear of improving our paternal participation. Just make sure you score well in that bloody BFI, okay?
The story isn’t over yet, boys and girls. There’s a childcare/infantcare subsidy sub-package that hasn’t been announced yet, not to mention new adoption benefits. People are noting the rather stark silence in addressing single parents in the new revisions as well.