Changes to the Child Development Co-Savings Act (CDCA) were passed in Parliament on Thursday (10 Nov). Changes include; new fathers will get two weeks of Government-paid paternity leave, while unwed mothers will get 16 weeks of maternity leave, beginning from 1 January next year.
At present, under the Employment Act, fathers are only entitled to only one week of obligatory Government-paid paternity leave, with a second week provided by their employers on a voluntary basis. And unwed mothers are entitled to eight weeks of paid maternity leave.
The NCMP said that he supported the bill to equalize the various parental leave schemes for unwed and adoptive parents, but added that Government should consider making certain housing exceptions for unwed parents. He asked the Government to consider expanding its definition of family core to include unwed single parents for their children’s well-being.
Asst Prof Goh said, “While it is important to continue to promote parenthood within the ambit of marital unions, there is a need to balance it with the recognition that not everyone is so fortunate to be able to sustain a happy marriage, or even obtain it.”
“Economic pressures, relationship problems or errors of judgement may be to blame for marital breakdown or unwed pregnancies. But the most important thing is that children should not be published for the prejudices and mistakes of adults.”
“I believe that putting the well-being of the child at the center of social policy affecting the family is the key to the balancing act,” he stated.
Protect the Family Life of Contract Workers
Associate Prof Goh proposed to protect the family life of contract workers., “Employers have been known to avoid leave obligations by signing workers on contracts that are shorter than three months and renewing them with breaks in between. I am aware that the tripartite partners set up new guidelines in June this year where employers are encouraged to treat contracts renewed within a month as continuous and grant leave cumulatively.”
In the short term, Associate Prof Goh urged the Ministry of Social and Family Development to work with the Ministry of Manpower to track whether employers are following the guidelines and to intervene when they are not, so that ‘encourage’ will become ‘strongly encourage’.
In the longer term, he asked that the Government to enact comprehensive laws to better protect term contract workers, as this group is fast becoming a substantial group in the new economy.
Ensure Housing Security for All Children
Without housing security, Associate Prof Goh argue that the parental leave can be meaningless. This is the biggest issue for divorcees and unwed single parents.
“Other than income security and retirement adequacy, housing security is a key foundation stone for our social security system. I cannot stress enough that having a secure roof over one’s head is crucial for the proper development of children. It is not just a physical need. This is an emotional need,” he stressed.
“Children who grow up in a home that is more or less permanent will experience familiarity and love, while those who need to constantly move around will experience psychological stress due to the uncertainty of residence.”
Asst Prof Goh explained that some studies have shown that for adults, moving homes can be more stressful than divorce and relationship breakdowns and changing jobs, “What more for children who need the certainty in their environment to grow up nurtured and feeling secure,” he said.
He added that low income divorcees will find themselves and their children in a terrible situation, as they will not be able to afford to purchase a flat and will not be eligible for a public rental flat until five years later.
He stated, “Economic disruption may become the norm, but we should keep disruption to family life minimal.”
Asst Prof Goh pointed that the problem may well be that the HDB flat has long been treated as the matrimonial home rather than a more inclusive definition of the familial home. Therefore he urged the Government to consider expanding its definition to fit with the times.
“We need to have the courage to change the social infrastructure to meet changing social structures and economic circumstances,” Asst Prof Goh said.