Saturday 15 December 2012

Stay-at-home mothers call for equal childcare subsidies

Working mums get more aid because they chose to work, Dr Amy Khor explains
by Tan Weizhen, TODAY, 14 Dec 2012

Stay-at-home mothers at a dialogue session yesterday called on the Government to grant them the same level of childcare subsidies as working mothers. They were among the 26 participants who attended the Women, Babies and Career dialogue organised by government feedback channel REACH.

They argued that not only have stay-at-home mothers sacrificed their earning abilities to look after their children, they can be as busy as working mothers. Therefore, they should enjoy the Government's full childcare subsidies. Also, they felt stay-at-home mothers tend to want more children as compared to those who are working, so more resources ought to be given to them.

"Apart from sacrificing our earning ability, we are also not getting as many subsidies as working mums. I feel sidelined by the Government in that sense," said a mother who will be stay-at-home mum from next month.

This, however, provoked an indignant response by working mothers. "It is not fair to say that working mothers do not want to have kids. Not all of us can afford to stay at home to look after children," said 40-year-old Ms Natalie Lim.

Intervening, Minister of State (Health and Manpower) Amy Khor, who chaired the dialogue, said working mothers are given subsidies "because they made a choice to work" so the Government "should facilitate that to make it easier for them".

Dr Khor, who is Chairman of REACH, added that stay-at-home mothers do get "some subsidies".

Currently, working mothers get a S$300 childcare subsidy for full day care, while non-working mothers get S$150. For infant care subsidy, working mothers get S$600 for full day care, while non-working mothers get S$150.

Earlier this year, Minister of State (Social and Family Development) Halimah Yacob told Parliament that the Government may review the amount of subsidies for stay-at-home mothers. But working mothers take priority as they have to spend more on costlier childcare arrangements while they are at work, she said.

Participants also raised the difficulties they still face from employers who pressure mothers to work long hours, pushing some to resign.

While Dr Khor pointed to more companies offering flexi-work arrangements, participants were sceptical, saying that employers would not understand the need for mothers to have such work arrangements.

"Human Resources in some companies simply don't want to do it, because it may mean more work for them," said Mrs Sher-Li Torrey, founder and Director of Mums@Work.

Responding, Dr Khor said: "It depends on the capability of the HR. They may not know how to evaluate the performance of staff on flexible hours. It is about the mindset - performance is not putting in the face time, it is about the outcome."

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