Women’s rights and gender-quality advocacy group AWARE took to Facebook on Tuesday (3 August) to slam the new changes recently made on the Child Development Co-Saving Act (CDCA) as it disqualifies fathers from paid childcare leave and unpaid infant-care leave if their children are born out of wedlock.
“While AWARE welcomes most of the newly announced changes to the Child Development Co-Savings Act, one that gives us pause is the new policy disqualifying fathers from paid childcare leave and unpaid infant-care leave if their children are born from extramarital affairs,” said AWARE.
It added, “Mothers will still be eligible for leave (so as to not compromise to the children’s well-being), and the fathers will become eligible if they subsequently marry”.
The group was referring the latest amendments made on CDCA to particularly help retrenched parents and those of stillborn and adopted children, in order to encourage Singaporeans to have more children. The changes was passed in Parliament on Monday (2 August).
Despite the positive benefits arising from the changes, the Act does support fathers, who are either wed or unwed, as they will be disqualified from paid childcare leave and unpaid infant-care leave if their children are born from extramarital affairs.
Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling said in Parliament that it was not the intent of CDCA to permit this, as the desired social norm remains parenthood within marriage.
However, pregnant mothers will still continue to be entitled to these leave schemes so that the child’s well-being is not compromised, and the fathers will become eligible if they later marry.
Voicing its dissatisfaction towards the changes, AWARE pointed out that the first issue with the policy is that it does not seem to prioritise the best interest of the child, which is something policies supporting parenthood need to do.
“Studies have shown that greater paternal involvement tends to result in benefits such as fewer behavioural problems, lower risk of substance abuse later in life, and a more gender-equal model for the child,” it explained.
As such, AWARE stressed that children should not be punished just because “we disapprove of their fathers’ conduct”.
Another issue that the group has is with the Government’s reasoning that CDCA is the “desired social norm remains parenthood within marriage”.
The Government’s theory on this is that if they extend support to individuals who have extramarital affairs, it will lead to undesirable outcome of more affairs in the future with more children being born to unwed parents, AWARE said.
However, the group noted that there isn’t any data to support this theory, adding that extending benefits like equal maternity leave to unwed mothers has not resulted in an uptick in unwed parents anyway.
“Unwed people have children for a variety of reasons largely unrelated to the availability of benefits.
“The fact that this policy is only directed at fathers, too, reinforces the idea that, no matter what, mothers hold the primary responsibility of parenting,” said AWARE.
The group also mentioned about PAP Women’s Wing and Young PAP recommendations last week for gender equality as it emphasised the importance of “promoting more equal sharing of the caregiving responsibilities between men and women”.
To this, AWARE questioned: “Is this moralistic policy going to undermine the more important signal to society that childcare needs to involve all genders?”
Lastly, the group also expressed that since there is already a societal stigma around extramarital affairs, this policy will possibly cause many unmarried fathers to not even claim childcare and infant-care leave if they have an illegitimate child.
“We suspect that the misuse of benefits that this policy seeks to address is unlikely to happen in the first place. Let’s keep our eyes on the most critical challenges facing society at large,” it concluded.