Picture of a single mother (Source : Shutterstock).

Number of children born to unmarried mothers has dropped since 2006

Mr Kok Heng Leung, a nominated member of Parliament, asked the Minister for Social and Family Development (MSF) about the number of children born in Singapore who do not have a father named on their birth certificate, and have a father named on their birth certificate but the parents are not married on or before the date of registration of birth over the last 10 years.

In his written reply, Minister for Social and Family Development, Tan Chuan-Jin stated that there has been a drop in the number of babies born each year to citizen mothers who were not married to the father of the child at the point of birth registration from 2006 to 2015.

Source : MSF.
Source : MSF.

The Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) noted that while maternity leave will soon be offered equally, these children – numbering over 10,000 – remain disadvantaged by state policy on matters like housing access, inheritance laws and tax reliefs.

It asked, “What are the implications of this for fairness and social mobility?”

Currently, according to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the maternity leave for married and unmarried mother has been different.

Legally married mother are eligible for 16 weeks Government-Paid Maternity Leave under the Child Development Co-Savings Act and are given the usual monthly salary during the leave.While unmarried mothers only entitled to 12 weeks of maternity leave and the last four weeks of the leave is unpaid.

AWARE states that there are 5 big challenges single mothers need to overcome.

1. Housing

Unmarried parents can only purchase HDB flats at age 35, and they are only eligible for subsidies on two-room flats in non-mature estates.  Meanwhile, divorced parents are barred from renting from HDB for 30 months after selling the matrimonial flat, limiting their rental options to expensive open market flats.  When they can again rent directly from HDB, they struggle to provide for their families while remaining under the highly restrictive $1,500 income ceiling.

2. Employment

Single parents are frequently sole breadwinners too.  Many divorced parents with care and control of the children are women who left employment while married to meet the care needs of their families, sometimes negatively affecting their confidence and their skills.  Returning to the job market is a challenge in a society where too many disregard caregiving as work experience and are suspicious of single parents.

3. Childcare

The challenges of parenting are intensified when only one parent is consistently at hand for every trip to school, home-cooked meal or doctor’s visit.  Finding reliable, affordable childcare is a major difficulty for single parents, but essential if they are to find and keep employment.

4. Poverty

Struggling with employment, childcare and housing, many single parents find it hard to make ends meet, let alone build up savings or improve their family’s life chances.  Divorced mother are particularly vulnerable, with little CPF or savings from years as married home-makers, and often face difficulty making repeated trips to court to enforce maintenance orders against defaulting ex-spouses.

5. Stigma

Single parents have a tough job, which society makes harder by responding to them with prejudice and stereotypes.  We deny their children equality in areas like the Baby Bonus cash gift and give them stigmatising labels like ‘illegitimate’ (which carries real disadvantages in terms of inheritance law and tax reliefs), sending the hostile message that they aren’t worth as much as others, and don’t belong.

Reduction of single mothers due to contraceptives

Recently, the numbers of single mothers have decreased, and it is not because fewer of them are having sex or that women are being discouraged from having babies without being married. Social workers said that it is because today’s teens are more savvy about using contraceptives.

There were 341 children born to teenagers aged 19 and below in 2015, 16 percent lower than 406 children in 2014. The number had been decreased for more than 50 percent of 838 children born in 2006.

Source : ICA.
Source : ICA.

As for single parent (SP) registration births, there were 409 children were registered without the father’s name in 2015. Out of these 409 SP births, 83 (20.3%) births were born to teenagers age 19 and below.  The numbers decreased for only less than 20 percent of the births occurred in 2006.

Source : ICA.
Source : ICA.

According to Ministry of Health (MOH), figures show that the number of girls under 20 who terminated their pregnancies has also decreased. There were 449 abortions performed on such girls in 2014. This is about a third of the 1,341 abortions in 2004, and 22 per cent fewer than in 2013.