Are our pro-family policies fair?

A friend brought up the issue of parental benefits this week and it got me thinking hard about the issue again.

Although the initial conversation was about the relationship between productivity, labour participation and pro-family policies, I noticed that things aren’t all fair or logical.

See, for example, the well-known issue of benefits for children of unmarried parents: Consider this bit of pedantry from MSF, which claims that children get the same benefits whether or not their parents are married. The ministry drew an awkward line to define “benefits” only as those accruing directly to the children, rather than to a parent, as though maternity leave or housing, for example, did not benefit a child).

Unmarried mothers (parents) do not receive: Baby Bonus Cash Gift and Child Development Account, 8 weeks of Maternity leave, Paternity leave, Shared parental leave, Parenthood tax rebate, qualifying child relief, handicapped child relief, working mother’s child relief, and grandparent caregiver relief, Foreign Maid Levy Relief, Housing grant for families and Housing priority schemes.

That’s a LOT of benefits that a child misses out on. I’m sure I haven’t even named them all. When the G withholds these benefits from parents, it is the children that really suffer, which makes all that talk of a level playing field for our children a bit of a twisted truth.

I’ve heard some ideas for easy-to-implement tweaks to make our policies even more family friendly, and not just family friendly – fair and logical.

Fully-shareable parental leave
Because if you can share one week, why not share all the weeks? What’s the difference, really? Sometimes you need that flexibility, and if your employer is okay with it, why not? It will make sure that bad employers don’t give pregnant women the “evil eye”, since they can now foist their TAFEP-breaching prejudices on men as well.

Extending parenthood benefits to single parents
Because people don’t get pregnant out of wedlock just BECAUSE you offer them the same benefits as everyone else. Moral hazard is near to zero. And really, in spite of what MSF says, it’s the kids who suffer the most. That, in my book, is unmeritocratic.

Paid childcare leave
Paid childcare leave that doesn’t increase when you have more kids? That’s the purpose of PCL, right? To take care of your kids. Maybe 4 days for first child, 6 days if you have 2 children, 7 if you have 3, 8 days for 4 and above? It’s not THAT much, and parents will take leave only when they actually only need to.

Classifying stay-at-home-mums and dads as “working”
I’ve got a much more in-depth post about it. Take a look.



  1. The problem isn’t costing. The problem is whether the hard choice of forgoing GDP & productivity to boost TFR can be reached. There hasn’t been any evidence that the G has been able to get past that crossroads, besides throwing money at the problem ironically. The environment needs addressing, rather than just policy. Time for bonding is especially important in early years of a child. That’s something money can’t buy. Not saying here that money isn’t important in world’s most expensive city, but it’s more than money. Some couples choose not to have children because of environmental reasons, not just money. The other major hurdle for the G is the constant fear of system abuse. Everything comes with risk. It just needs to learn to take some risk without being anchored by kiasu and kiasi.


    1. True, and this policy is actually meant to counter perceptions and fears rather than throw money. If you look carefully, the payouts are actually mirrors of benefits that working parents enjoy. I’m just trying to remove the “stigma” of “unemployment” from being a SAH parent.


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