One of my last posts was on how each family has different child care arrangements in Coping with Children #2: Support in the home. Today I would like to share with you some of my very humble ideas for what Singapore can do more for families. They may not be fantastic ideas, nor is the list exhaustive, but the more all of us dialogue about such issues, the more we can help mould the future of our country.
1. More affordable quality child care.
It’s good news that the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) have announced another 17 new centres. The affordable child care centres are over subscribed (see my story a while ago), and the premium ones are almost daylight robbery. Every time the government increases their subsidies the child care fees also increase (see the March 24, 2014 report from ST on Childcare fee hike last year highest in at least 8 years).
Between hiring full-time domestic help and sending a child to child care, the latter is usually the better option, but when families have more than 1 child, it doesn’t make economic sense to do so unless the fees are a lot more affordable.
2. Remove the distinction between subsidies for working and non working mothers.
I feel like the G views mothers in extreme – either you work full time, or you don’t. In reality, many mothers at home have started their own businesses or dabble in part time work, so they are still contributing to the economy. And I also think that the role of mothers in the home need to be recognized as being more important than at work when the kids are young. Laying a solid foundation in shaping our future generation is not an easy task, which we should not casually toss to hired caregivers.
Mothers need to be valued for their “work” at home, and it is at home where they are irreplaceable. It also does not mean that they will never go back into the work force, but the first six years are the most important, and often the most demanding years of a child’s life.
3. Push for greater work flexibility for all and better work life balance.
We need to change the cultural and social norms so that everyone has a better work life balance, as opposed to organisations just paying lip service. It’s easy for an organisation to say they support working from home, or a healthy work-life balance, but please, we all know how dependent this can be on the individual bosses.
As a marketeer I can think if several ways to do this APART from just passing legislations – highlighting good and bad examples of both employers and employees in the media, brainwashing workshops for HR and bosses, etc. Maybe even LHL needs to support the cause and tweet or IG a photo of himself winding down for the day? 🙂
It needs to get to the point where people will respect you enough not to bat an eyelid if you need to leave the office at say 3pm to attend to your child with high fever, and not demand that you apply for half day leave if you left at 3pm to visit your dying father in ICU. And yes, that last scenario did happen to yours truly. Certainly no Employer of the Year Award for them!
4. More flexible domestic help
It is becoming more and more expensive to have hired help and employers now have to fork out something like over $4k when they first hire a new helper. Perhaps if there is a more ready pool of part time helpers, or if somehow helpers could be shared amicably and legally amongst a few households – perhaps in one household every other day, or a few hours a day. It could possibly mean higher income for the helper, lower costs for the households, and as mothers like myself who are weary of raising another strawberry generation – the added social benefits of families not becoming overly dependent on hired help. This would also reduce the nation-wide reliance on domestic help and Singapore can be less threatened by the ever-changing demands and requirements from the home countries of the domestic workers. Win for everyone right?
For my family, and of course every family’s needs are different, if not a live in, we would probably prefer some assistance more than just once a week. Some days the kids can go through a mountain of clothes! And bedsheets! I would seriously consider it if I could find a part time helper to come several days a week and also help to prep some of the meals.
These are just a few of the thoughts swirling around in my head. What else can be done to make it better or easier for your family? I would love to hear differing opinions too.