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HomesingaporeForward SG report outlines caregiving support, possibility of more parental leave to...

Forward SG report outlines caregiving support, possibility of more parental leave to help families

SINGAPORE: From welcoming a newborn to entering one’s golden years, Singaporeans must be better supported no matter their evolving circumstances and needs, the Forward SG report released on Friday (Oct 27) said.

The report, which comprised findings from the Forward SG exercise held over the last 16 months, underscored the need to support families at every stage of life and empower seniors to age well. 

These key shifts are required for Singapore in light of smaller family sizes amid an ageing population. The latter adds to the caregiving burden on individuals, particularly among the “sandwich” class who have to raise young children and care for their elderly parents at the same time.

Today, one in five Singaporeans are aged 65 and older, and it will be one in four by 2030, the report added, calling it a demographic shift that will be “the most significant social transformation of our generation”.

At the same time, young Singaporeans continue to aspire towards marriage and parenthood, but many are anxious about securing a flat or being able to afford starting a family while juggling work commitments, the report noted.  

It outlined several measures to meet these varied needs across different life phases.

BETTER INFANT CARE, PARENTAL LEAVE, CAREGIVER SUPPORT

The report cited concerns from many parents that a child’s care needs are the greatest during their first 18 months, and they may struggle to find ideal caregiving options. 

To provide parents more assurance that they can raise their children while fulfilling their aspirations, centre-based infant care places will be increased by about 70 per cent or 9,000 more places by 2030. This will be especially helpful for parents without “familial or alternative caregiving arrangements”. 

“Affordable, safe and reliable” childminding services will also be introduced as an additional infant care option.

The government will study the feasibility of providing more parental leave so that parents, especially fathers, can be more involved raising their infant. It will also work with tripartite partners to consider the impact of added parental leave on employers.

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As announced earlier, the government has extended paid paternity leave from two to four weeks on a voluntary basis from Jan 1 next year. It aims to make the additional two weeks of paid paternity leave mandatory “as soon as possible”, the report said.

At the same time, creating more family-friendly workplaces will help Singaporeans achieve better work-life harmony. To that end, tripartite guidelines for flexible work arrangements will be introduced in 2024.  

More support will be extended to caregivers. In particular, families with children with developmental and special educational needs will get reduced out-of-pocket costs for early intervention services, schools and student care centres.

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MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING, BETTER AMENITIES

In line with keeping housing “affordable and fair” and maintaining “a good social mix”, a classification framework has been introduced for Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats which will categorise new homes into Standard, Plus and Prime flats depending on location.

Under this framework, flats in better locations will be kept affordable through higher subsidies but come with “tighter occupancy and resale restrictions”, including a longer minimum occupation period, subsidy clawback for first owners and an income ceiling for resale buyers. 

The built environment must also accommodate Singapore’s ageing population, especially as many seniors prefer to age in place than relocate, the report said.

Existing homes will get more senior-friendly amenities and features so they can carry out their daily activities “more easily and safely”. 

Such improvements will, for instance, allow seniors to choose from an expanded suite of fittings for their homes, from ramps to slip-resistant flooring, as part of enhancements to the current Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) programme.

Neighbourhoods will also get features like rest points and larger, more colourful signs with symbols to help seniors find their way home. The government will also install more “health-promoting amenities” including fitness trails within estates, the report said. 

The Friendly Streets initiative – which has senior-friendly features like “traffic calming measures” – will be expanded to all towns, the report added. The initiative is expected to be piloted in five neighbourhoods by 2025 for a start.

And as more seniors choose to age at home, the number of social service centres will be increased to provide day care and rehabilitation services, and more home care options with “more responsive support” will be developed.

Additionally, the government will progressively improve care coordination by having one provider coordinate a bundle of key services in each region, the report said. This provider will act as the “single touchpoint” to assess each senior’s needs and develop “holistic care plans” for them. 

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EMPOWERING SENIORS TO AGE, RETIRE WELL

The Age Well SG national programme aims to strengthen Singapore’s aged care system and enable seniors to age well in the community, the report said.

Under this programme, the network of active ageing centres will be expanded to give eight in 10 seniors access to these centres near their homes by 2025. 

For seniors who want to continue working, the government has implemented incentives and support schemes with tripartite partners. Nonetheless, seniors should be able to retire with peace of mind and meet their basic retirement needs through Central Provident Fund (CPF) payouts, the report stated. 

The government will review the Workfare Income Supplement scheme so those with lower incomes can build their CPF savings. It will also raise the Enhanced Retirement Sum to benefit those who “would like to put even more into their Retirement Accounts” to receive higher payouts in retirement.

It also seeks to enhance the Silver Support Scheme and Matched Retirement Savings Scheme. 

The Majulah Package, targeted at Singaporeans aged 50 and above this year, will give a boost to their retirement funds through three components depending on income level: An annual Earn and Save Bonus, a one-time Retirement Savings Bonus and a one-time MediSave Bonus. 

“We cannot stop ageing. But the way we grow old – the state of our health and the quality of life in our senior years – is something that we, as a society, can positively impact together,” the report said.

“It requires both proactive government policies and Singaporeans who do their part.”

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