Singapore-based women’s rights group AWARE recently made the call to make paternity leave mandatory, arguing that Singapore’s current parenting leave policies – where new mothers are given four months’ maternity leave while father’s are not entitled any – reinforce unhealthy gender stereotypes and do not help declining fertility rates.
Some key policy recommendations include making paid paternity leave of two weeks mandatory, converting of the 4th month of maternity leave into ‘parental leave’ to be taken by either parent, and a $4000 ‘parenting present’ to fathers who opt to take up the 4th month of paternity leave. The recommendations also suggest that any costs incurred will have to be shared between the state and the employer.
Naturally, these proposals have drawn mixed reactions from the ground. Economist A/P Dr Tan Khee Giap, for instance, expressed concerns about the proposals’ cost-effectiveness, stating that
“If such a law is passed, similar requests of this sort will also come forward and they expect the Budget to pay for it. It will be a burden to the country’s Budget and the economy would have to grow fast. More foreign workers would have to be accepted. Instead, the Government should encourage and leave it to employers to provide paternity leave.” (Taken from this TODAY article)
An ST poll has also reveal contrasting sentiments towards the recommendations. Notable reactions to the policy measures include concerns about whether these measures sit well with our society’s current values, burden the employers too much, or might even be seen as a step backwards if the 4th month of transferable leave is not utilized effectively.
What are your own thoughts on the proposal to make paternity leave mandatory?
Do you think Singapore is ready to accept such a measure? Should we even be open to it?