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Two weeks of paid paternity leave from January 2017
THE government will legislate a second week of state-funded paternity leave for all fathers of Singapore citizen children born from Jan 1 next year. This was announced by Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo in Parliament on Wednesday, during the debate on the spending plans of the Prime Minister's Office for the new financial year.
A week of government-paid paternity leave was first introduced back in 2013, as part of the government's enhanced Marriage and Parenthood Package.
Last year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at the National Day Rally that employers could give a second week of such leave on a voluntary basis, with the Civil Service one of the first to lead the way.
Mrs Teo, who oversees the country's population issues, said the extra week of paternity leave - to be capped at S$2,500 a week, including Central Provident Fund contributions - will enable young fathers to be more involved with raising their children.
There are some conditions that fathers must fulfil first. They must be lawfully married to the child's mother and must have served their employer continuously for at least three calendar months before the child's birth.
Separately, Mrs Teo also said that government-paid shared parental leave will be quadrupled to four weeks, for citizen children born from July 1, 2017. Currently, a working mother can only share one week from her four-month paid maternity leave with her husband.
This latest enhancement to paternity leave and shared parental leave will allow fathers to take up to eight weeks of leave within the first year of their baby's birth, after factoring in six days of childcare leave and a week of unpaid infant care leave. Adoption leave will also go up to 12 weeks, up from four weeks currently, for adoptive mothers of infants younger than one year old.
Mrs Teo said that adoptive fathers will be able to share up to four weeks of their spouse's adoption leave, and this enhancement will apply to children adopted from July 1, 2017.
For the first two children, the first four weeks will be paid by employers, while the government will take care of the remaining eight weeks. For the third child and beyond, all 12 weeks will be funded by the government.
Earlier in the debate, Member of Parliament Desmond Choo (Tampines) noted how only 40 per cent of fathers used their one week of paid paternity leave in 2015, which might be due to manpower constraints in companies, and the mindsets of both workers and employers.
Nominated MP Thomas Chua, meanwhile, highlighted the conflict between implementing lean management, increasing productivity, and promoting family-friendly and flexible working arrangements.
Mr Chua, who is also the president of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry, wanted to know how this contradiction should be resolved. In her speech, Mrs Teo said that the government had timed this latest round of leave enhancements to give employers "some time" to adjust and plan.
"We hope employers that are in a position to do so, start to extend paternity leave even before legislation kicks in so that parents of children born earlier can also benefit," she said.
"The extra benefits may have a temporary impact on businesses but they are also powerful signals to your employees about your commitment towards family-friendly practices," she added.
Mrs Teo updated the House on Singapore's total fertility rate, which stood at 1.24 in 2015 and slightly above the average of 1.22 in the first half of this decade.
Last year, there were 23,805 citizen marriages, the second-highest rate in more than a decade and just below the 24,037 such marriages in 2014.
Singapore also welcomed nearly 34,000 Golden Jubilee babies born in 2015, the year that the country celebrated 50 years of independence.
This, said Mrs Teo, was the highest in over a decade and higher than the which was the highest in more than a decade, and more than the 33,238 babies born in the last Year of the Dragon in 2012.