Why no paternity leave in Singapore?BY CHRIS REED
For a country obsessed with getting the fertility rate up amongst Singaporean nationals one policy in particular doesn’t help the cause. There are no official paternity rights or leave in Singapore.
Why not? Good question when you think that many Singaporean’s only get 14 days holiday a year. What happened to progressive policies and helping fathers spend time with their new family?
How does this policy contradict the “Dads for Life” campaign that is car stickered across Singaporean’s taxis and which inspires conferences to discuss being better fathers?
Dads for Life is a national movement supported by the National Family Council (a quasi Government organization given that many of their members are also on the NTUC and PA councils too) and Fathers Action Network. It is strongly anchored in research that highlights the distinct benefits of paternal involvement on child development in terms of improved cognitive, socio-emotional, psychological and academic outcomes.
Active paternal involvement is also linked to better couple relationships among parents, lower levels of maternal stress and positive changes in fathers’ self identify.
Which all begs the question why doesn’t the Singapore Government legislate for time off for new dads and if they do not then why should employers give new dads time off that they don’t have to?
There are many reasons for Singapore’s low birth rate, but two important factors in trying to reverse the trend are better support for parenting responsibilities and policies that promote gender equality.
Studies have shown a direct correlation, in developed nations, between the level of gender equality in a society and its total fertility rate. When women have to bear the bulk of childcare responsibilities, they are less inclined to have children. Where there are policies that support gender equality and equally shared childcare duties between father and mother, more babies are born.
Singapore’s current parenting leave policies – four months for new mothers and none for new fathers – reinforce gender stereotypes of women as caregivers and men as providers.
The UK offers amazing paternity leave by comparison. Additional paternity leave (APL) will allow an employee to take up to 26 weeks' leave to care for the child, on top of two weeks of ordinary paternity leave.
This can only be taken 20 or more weeks after the child's birth or placement for adoption, and once the mother has returned to work from statutory maternity or adoption leave or ended her entitlement.
The United States offers 12 weeks unpaid parental leave but individual states provide more and some are paid. Most US companies include it in their contracts.
Most companies in the world offer some form of paternity leave, paid for or unpaid for, to new dads with the exception of Singapore.
There is a disconnect between Singapore’s low fertility rate and their desire not to legislate paternity leave. All the studies carried out demonstrate that both emotionally and economically it makes sense to give new dads paternity leave.
Why won’t Singapore join the rest of the modern world in offering this and encouraging families to share the new born responsibilities?
Chris Reed, Regional Partnerships Director (Asia), Partnership Marketing