More families to benefit from lower pre-school costs soon
Slew of measures to be introduced from next year to encourage more Singaporeans to start families
A couple with two young children are thinking of expanding their family now that they will be eligible for more subsidies for early childhood education.
Mr Mohammad Faizal Jaafar said he and his wife, Madam Nurkamariah Aman, had planned to stop at two after having a daughter, now five, and a son who is three.
The safety officer, 36, told The New Paper: "About 10 per cent to 15 per cent of our monthly income now goes to just childcare, and it will helpful to have extra savings from the new subsidies."
He said saving a few hundred dollars a month may not seem like much, but it "will give us assurance as we consider having more children".
Previously, Mr Faizal and Madam Nurkamariah, who works in a bank, were not eligible for the additional subsidies as their monthly household income had exceeded the ceiling of $7,500.
But they will qualify when the monthly household income ceiling for additional childcare and kindergarten subsidies is raised to $12,000 from January.
The change is among a slew of new measures to encourage more Singaporeans to start or expand their families, with most of them to be introduced from next year.
Under the enhanced subsidies, lower-income families may pay as little as $3 a month for full-day childcare.
Those who earn more could pay $390 a month for full-day childcare at pre-schools run by anchor operators that charge monthly fees of $770 after the goods and services tax (GST).
The amount of subsidy they receive will depend on their income.
The age limit of 45 for women undergoing assisted reproductive technology (ART) treatments will also be removed from next January.
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, who oversees population matters, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee and Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor announced the measures during a visit to the My First Skool pre-school in Punggol yesterday.
This round of changes will be the eighth time the Marriage and Parenthood Package, which was first rolled out in 2001, is being enhanced.
The ministries will also increase the number of places offered by government-supported pre-schools.
With the measures, 80 per cent of young children should have a place in these pre-schools by around 2025, up from the current 50 per cent.
Starting in 2021, fee caps at government-supported pre-schools will also be lowered, as the government share of the pre-school sector expands over time.
This will allow working families with a child in full-day childcare to pay about $300 a month.
Partner operators currently have their fees capped at $856, including GST, for full-day childcare. Fee caps for anchor operators are now $770 with GST for full-day childcare.
The ministries are also looking into bringing more partner operators on board, up from the present 23.
For the first time, it will include a small number of kindergartens that offer quality programmes.
Referring to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally speech that touched on plans to make pre-school more affordable across the board, Mr Lee said the subsidy amounts for families at different income tiers will go up, and raising the income ceiling to $12,000 will benefit 30,000 more households.
This means that about 70 per cent of Singapore households will be able to benefit.
Today, only 41,000 families with household income ceilings of $6,000 for kindergarten and $7,500 for childcare receive these means-tested subsidies.
A dual-income family earning $8,000 a month will now pay only $280 for monthly full-day childcare, compared to the current $470.
Households with a combined income of $5,000 will pay $130, down from $370 currently.
Low-income families will pay even less, with those earning $3,000 or less a month co-paying just $3 a month at anchor operators, or $1 a month for Ministry of Education kindergartens.
Madam Siti Azilah Othman, 33, a mother of three with a household income of $3,000 to $3,500 a month, will receive between $440 and $467 of additional subsidy a month, meaning she will pay as low as $3 a child.
The barista said: "This will really help us to save and will also allow us to redirect some of the savings to focus more on helping our oldest child who will go to primary school next year.
"It will also allow us more freedom to provide for his other interests."
She added that the additional subsidies and tighter fee caps on pre-school fees will help ease her family's money concerns.
She said: "It will definitely reduce the burden on us as working parents."
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