Friday, July 18, 2008

Pro-family Singapore? Hardly...

A recent letter writer to the Today papers spoke about having 1 month of paternity leave for Singaporean fathers.

I cannot agree more with this...

Being a new father (kai is coming to 6 months!!) myself, I really appreciate every moment that I spend with my son. Furthermore, my wife really struggles to take care of him whenever I am not around (either on weekday evenings or on weekends, when I am away for my guitar/cello classes). Having 2 adults around to "tackle" a baby is probably just about right - at any one time, at least one of us can spare some minutes to do our own chores while the other is on 'standby' mode to cater to his needs. Believe me - he needs almost constant attention now, since he is now starting to learn to crawl. :)

The unfortunate thing (i guess for many Singaporean fathers alike) is that our Government seem to think that the role of fathers is simply to bring home the bread, by working our ass off. While the mother is given 12 weeks of maternity leave (of course, that is VERY necessary, given that they have to go through the painful process of labour), the father is given a meagre 2 (or if lucky, then 3 - depending on your company policy) days...

For me, with a mere 15 days annual leave (that really sucks!!) I really cannot afford to take days off on a whim - if only just to spend some quality bonding time with my son. I need to "reserve" these precious days of leave for cases of emergency. With a 6 month old baby, you'd never know...

With the Government actively promoting couples to have more babies; family bonding, quality work-life balance, etc... it is truly ironical that we have so little support in terms of something as important as this. It's clear to many of us that our Government still puts more focus on economic progress and a person's "value" to the country's growth is measured PURELY by how much he contributes to the GDP (or maybe even the income tax that he pays :P ). That is why they are so hesitant to implement these truly pro-family measures, fearing the expected backlash from unhappy employers representing the large multinational corporations with businesses here.

That said, even for the Civic service (ie. where the government IS the employer) the paternity benefits arent any better.

At the end of the day, if the Singapore Government wants to put SOOOO much emphasis on economic growth, thus neglecting the negative impact on the Singaporean family unit, then they must be prepared to face a sustained low replacement rate as most couples would hesitate to have more than 1 or 2 children (if at all). Those parents who value quality family time and a good work-life balance will look elsewhere for this, as evident from the number of families who choose to migrate to other developed countries such as Australia, Canada or the States.

It's a sad reality we're facing in this country.


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