Citizens voice their disagreement with Josephine Teo’s views on flat ownership and parenthood

Many citizens took to Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo’s Facebook page to express their disagreement on her views on whether couples should get a flat first before planning for a baby.

Ms Teo was earlier quoted to have said, “You need a very small space to have sex.” when questioned on whether young people are not getting their flats early enough to have children in a media interview.

The senior who oversees the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) commented that in Singapore love story has a different flow from the West countries, “In our case, man meets woman, man falls in love with woman, man proposes to woman, they then plan the wedding and do the house.”

Following the negative public reaction in response to her quoted remarks, Ms Josephine wrote on her Facebook page on Friday (14 October) that Singaporeans need an honest conversation on how, as a society, they can get ready for Millennial families and commented that the media might not have captured everything in the way she intended

Susan Tan wrote on Ms Teo’s Facebook page to remind her to bear in mind that most of the times, life is not a Disney Fairy Tale. She went on to ask the Minister to read some of the comments written by netizens in response to remarks she made on Wednesday (12 October).

She highlighted one particular comment by “Geetha”,

“I lived with my parents while waiting for my BTO, and had 2 kids during that course of time. As much as it was great having my family to help out, it was also very difficult. Getting a helper was nearly impossible because we had 8 occupants in a 4 room flat. Space was a major constraint because having a baby (or two in my case) required many stuff. Apart from postnatal stress, there were many issues due to differences in opinions. In-laws felt left out because they felt like intruders in a place that is not their own.”

“Yes, you do not need a big space to have sex. But you do need an adequate space to raise a child. I find the comment childish and hope that people can see the pros and cons before suggesting such arrangements,”

Commenting on the post, Petrina Pang also shared her experience when she had to live with her mother-in-law before she could afford her very own place.

“Agreed. Though it’s best to start a family as soon as marriage, a home is very important. Very often either spouse move into in law house, you share a room with your spouse.

Should a kid come along, a cot will be in the same room. And new baby stuffs and clothes all in the same room.
The family will end up living in a 1-room flat.

And should the next Build to Order (BTO) coming up isn’t near their parents place, they have got to continue waiting for the next BTO. Baby baking in tummy only 9 months. Building BTO takes 2.5yrs plus Reno and waiting for keys.

By then, baby already become preschooler. The first 3 years of breastfeeding, learning would have passed.

When I lived with my mother-in-law, she used to stare when I feed my baby. I felt so awkward I had to lock myself in room with baby. Post natal depression due to mother-in-law nagging during confinement.

My parents felt awkward staying too long as it’s not their Daughter’s house. There are many issues to iron out living with in laws after baby comes along. I lived with in laws for 9 years before we had our 1st kid. But we only managed to move out after 8 years and after 2 kids. The stress level is not something every woman can bear.”

Ms Josephine replied to the comment thread by Susan, saying the above stories are the reason why the Housing Development Board (HDB) started the Provisional Parenthood Priority Scheme (PPHS) to provide subsidized rental housing to couples who need it. Ms Teo went on to state that the PPHS flats are no different from other flats apart from the fact that the occupants pay subsidized rent rather than a mortgage.

However, many other commenters disagreed with her views on the matter.

Michael Kline asked the Minister, “Have you checked the waiting time for PPHS?”

Another commenter, Hany Saufy added, “And have you checked how much you have to pay in CASH for these PPHS Flats, dear Madam Josephine? Again its sums up to Singapore living expenses with its expensive usage.”
Ms Petrina also voiced her disagreement on Ms Josephine reply by saying:

“I’m not being picky. But if I were to live in a temporary rental flat, should I doll it up like my own? Or should I just keep it bare as I have intention to move after 2-3 years? There is a dilemma for renovation thoughts and furnishing. Why couples choose to move in with spouse instead of getting a rental flat is to cut cost.

If I spend $20k on bare necessities and furnishing, the 20k will go down the drain once i move. I will choose to save up this 20K and add to my renovation costs for my BTO so I will stay in that house for the next 10yrs and beyond.
Also, there is a stigma to living in a rental flat. The problem is not that we can’t afford housing, but the problem is we can’t find proper housing.”

Jemma Ong also expressed her concern towards the issue. She wrote:

“PPHS while fundamentally good for those in need, does not make much financial sense. As you rightly put it 90% has home ownership and in a way our HDB is seen as an “investment” since it is tied to our retirement fund. Rental fees regardless of how cheap, does not provide financial returns. So for couples who are financially savvy, this is not the route they will opt for. If we have a rental culture in Singapore as it is in the nordics, it would go against our achievements in public housing.

TL:DR – financially savvy couples who does not want to live with their parents will choose to wait for the completion of a BTO as opposed to renting before having kids based on the assumption that a)they like kids, and b) they think that kids are not liabilities.”

Randy Lim shared his reflection on what Ms Teo has brought up and wrote, “I was reflecting on this the whole day, and i think the reason why we waited for a flat before having sex to have babies, is mainly biological, i think this is common in any living being. A home first, then a family, this is the only responsible thing to do. I cannot imagine a bird having eggs and chicks before a nest is build. We are Asians, millennial or not, and we simply are not promiscuous in that manner, if we are, there will be another set of social problems. I don;t have the magic bullet, so I’m more reflective than anything in this rant, given my scenario, I’d still have my own homely abode first before thinking of copulation, and babies.”

Tan Lynda added that the issue may be more than about space or flat. It’s about affordability. She wrote, “Because Singapore has the parents’ maintenance act, that means, young people will be legally responsible for maintaining the welfare of their parents FOR DECADES. And at times even to help pay off their mortgages (if their parents were no longer employed). Our younger generation do not have many siblings to share such burden. As a married couple, the family has to care for 4 elderly parents, and the cost will escalate with time. This, I think is the root of the “infertility” problem. Unless, there’s prior planning for the next generation by individual families, this problem will persist. Giving them one off “reward” is not sufficient to offset the huge burden. I’m sure they are prioritizing their parents at the expense of their own needs. Just my thoughts.”

Johnny Kwok wrote to Ms Teo, expressing his views as a parent himself, .

Though one of the key reason for low birth rates are getting flats first. But do you know that many young couples are getting married late because of getting flats? Making financial planning? Before they settle down on getting kids?

The sky rocket high pricing of our flats are really getting out of reach for many young couples whom maybe just completed study or even just finish NS late while just getting into the labour force.

After getting housing, they need to settle down for renovation, and this two involves a huge sum of money. Thereafter financial planning for kids, the baby bonus given had more or less helps in lessen some burden on parents. But the subsidies we can use from our own medisave account are far too limited to offset our hospital bills from child birth.  My friend whom had c sect in hospital and her husband had to fork out $10,000 hard cash after subsidies from CPF when my friend discharge from hospital.

So does it make sense that couples are more of worried from financial burden. Is not about saving enough money before having a child.

Apart from parental support, more financial support should be given. What is the point when a couple works and has $20,000-$30,000 medisave and ended up can only use less than 5% of it?

And more support must also be given to single parents too. I have quite a few secondary school friends of mine whom are single parents. And they are divorcee. They didn’t get to enjoy any single benefits as they are being single out as a incomplete family.

Parental support, financial support, and making housing more affordable should be in place so as more birth rates will comes. And baby bonus incentive increase should not just stop there. It should continue to increase on case to case basis as we are one of the world highest cost city to live in the world. I hope more policy will be implemented for parents so they would not have to delay having baby.

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October 2016