SINGAPORE: Government-paid paternity leave will double from two to four weeks for fathers of Singaporean children born from Jan 1 next year, after a Bill was passed in parliament on Tuesday (Sep 19).
The Child Development Co-Savings Act was amended in line with announcements made at Budget 2023 by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong. This includes enhancements to paternity payment and reimbursement schemes.
The additional two weeks of government-paid paternity leave will be implemented on a voluntary basis so that employers have more time to adjust, said Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling during her opening speech in parliament on Monday.
The amended Bill will also allow the government to reimburse employers who grant two additional weeks of paternity leave to eligible employees, she added, doubling the reimbursement limits for employers.
Under the new laws, the government-paid paternity benefit will similarly be doubled from the current 14 days of an eligible father’s total income to 28 days.
Fathers who do not qualify for paternity leave under the Act because of their employment arrangements may instead be eligible for this benefit, which is a cash payment in lieu of the paternity leave.
Self-employed fathers will also benefit from the new measures, with the doubling of the limits of the government’s payment to those eligible for their loss of income when they stop working to care for their children.
As announced at Budget 2023, unpaid infant care leave for each parent will also be doubled from six days per 12 months to 12 days per 12 months.
All working parents will be eligible for the additional leave days if they have a Singaporean child below the age of two from Jan 1, 2024.
Budget 2023: Government-paid paternity leave to double to 4 weeks; mandatory for employers in due course
WHY IT MATTERS
When government-paid paternity leave was introduced 10 years ago, the take-up rate stood at just 25 per cent. Now, more than half of fathers take paternity leave, or 53 per cent as of 2021.
The government wants to encourage more fathers to be more involved in their children’s growing years from the very beginning, said Ms Sun on Monday. Research has also shown that children whose fathers are more involved have better outcomes in their physical, cognitive and emotional development.
Local data from the Singapore Longitudinal Early Development Study showed that using paternity leave can increase marital satisfaction, said Ms Sun.
“It also found that taking a longer duration of paternity leave would significantly reduce children’s behavioural problems through the mediating effects of family dynamics,” she added.
Furthermore, like other advanced societies, Singapore’s total fertility rate – which refers to the average number of live births each woman would have during her reproductive years – has been declining for many years.
The resident total fertility rate hit an all-time low of 1.04 in 2022, dipping below the previous record of 1.1 in 2020 and 1.12 in 2021.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah, who made the announcement in February, attributed this to the Tiger year in the Lunar calendar, which is “generally associated with lower births among the Chinese”.
In 2010, which was also a Tiger year, the total fertility rate was 1.15, lower than the years before and after.
Singapore’s total fertility rate has been below 1.2 since 2017.