In a Budget designed to support families to the fullest, Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Lawrence Wong announced in his Budget speech today (Feb 14, 2023) some ambitious measures that address some of their most urgent concerns.
From housing to ensuring no child is left behind, Budget 2023 is a tribute to families, the bedrock of our society.
Building a family home
True to the PAP Government’s commitment to ensuring affordable and accessible housing, DPM Wong said that the Government would focus on supporting first-timer families with children and married couples aged up to 40 in securing their first home.
These first-timer applicants will receive an additional ballot chance for their BTO applications, to be implemented later in the year.
In addition, the CPF Housing Grant will be increased to S$80,000 (up from S$50,000) for eligible families buying 4-room or smaller resale flats.
Meanwhile, those buying 5-room flats and above will receive a grant of S$50,000 (up from S$40,000).
These new grants will take effect from Tuesday afternoon for resale applications submitted from 3.30pm. The additional grant amount will be credited to their CPF account from April onwards.
Bundled together with the Enhanced CPF Housing Grant and the Proximity Housing Grant, eligible families can receive up to S$190,000 in support towards building their new home.
According to Minister for National Development Desmond Lee, these new initiatives are born out of a series of Housing Conversations under #ForwardSG conducted last year.
“Today, a large majority of our supply of BTO flats is reserved for First-Timers. But we want to give a smaller subgroup among the First-Timers more assistance to secure their homes,” shared Minister Lee.
Supporting parents in raising their kids
Raising children will become much less financially taxing in the coming years as DPM Wong announced a slew of measures to help parents with the cost of bringing up baby.
From today onwards, the Baby Bonus Cash Gift for eligible Singaporean children will go up by S$3,000, bringing the total amount to S$11,000 for the first- and second child and S$13,000 for the third child onwards.
“Eligible parents can receive up to S$9,000 off in the first 18 months and S$400 every six months until the child is 6½ years old,” said DPM Wong.
In addition, the Baby Support Grant of S$3,000, introduced at the height of the pandemic, will be extended to babies born from Oct 1, 2022, to Feb 13, 2023.
Next, the Government will increase contributions to the Child Development Account (CDA) to help offset education and healthcare expenses.
These will include the First Step Grant, which will rise from S$3,000 to S$5,000, and an increase in the co-matching cap by S$1,000 for first (S$4,000) and second (S$7,000) children when parents save into their child’s CDA.
Lastly, DPM Wong reiterated the Government’s commitment to support working mothers and encourage women to remain in the workforce.
To achieve these twin goals, the Working Mother’s Child Relief will switch from a percentage of earned income to a fixed dollar relief.
This change will allow eligible working mothers to claim S$8,000 in tax relief for their first child, S$10,000 for the second child and S$12,000 for the third and subsequent child.
This will take effect from the Year of Assessment 2025.
Promoting closer relationships with more parental leave
Modern families might enjoy a high standard of living, but it often comes at the expense of family time.
As part of the ongoing efforts to support families with young children, DPM Wong announced that unpaid infant care leave, will be doubled to 12 days per year.
All parents of Singaporean children below two years old will be eligible for this additional time off if they have worked with their employer continuously for at least three months, said DPM Wong.
Next, DPM Wong shared a piece of much-welcomed news for fathers.
Many studies internationally and in Singapore have shown that children with more involved fathers have better physical, cognitive and emotional development outcomes. For that reason, paid paternity leave will increase from two to four weeks, he said.
While the extra two weeks will be given on a voluntary basis at the start to give employers more time to adjust, DPM Wong said that the Government plans on making paternity leave mandatory in due course.
“I hope the message is clear. We want paternal involvement to be the norm in our society. And we will stand behind all our fathers who want to play a bigger role in raising our children.
“And I hope this will provide greater assurance to parents and parents to be as they think about starting and raising their families in Singapore,” added DPM Wong.
Ensuring no child is left behind
Even though the Gini coefficient in Singapore has been steadily declining, DPM Wong acknowledged that issues faced by lower-income families are complex and multifaceted.
That, in itself, requires the Government to roll out more holistic and comprehensive support.
“Beyond inequality, we must also sustain social mobility across generations. In particular, we must do more to close the early gaps in our children’s lives,” said DPM Wong.
Financial help is only half the equation in tackling inequality.
In his speech, DPM Wong highlighted some of the support to help lower-income families achieve the stability and self-reliance needed to break their poverty cycle.
For a start, the ComCare Endowment Fund, a critical source of support for lower-income families, will be topped up by S$300 million.
Next, ComLink, a nationwide platform serving 14,000 families with children living in rental housing, will be better integrated and streamlined to offer customised programmes and services to lower-income families.
In addition, KidStart, which provides upstream support for pregnant mothers and young children in lower-income households, will be scaled up nationwide to support 80 per cent of eligible children born this year.
“We have also made significant investments in the early childhood sector over the last decade,” said DPM Wong.
And this trend will continue in the next two years as the Government has pledged to create 22,000 more full-day childcare places and expand the number of MOE kindergartens.
The preschool enrolment rate for children living in rental flats is lower than the national average. Hopefully, this will help support higher preschool participation rates across the board, especially amongst lower-income families, said DPM Wong.
Overall, a supportive Budget for families
The PAP Government has never wavered in their dedication to supporting families through good times and bad.
And now more than ever, DPM Wong has delivered a Budget that offers much-needed relief to hardworking families and young couples planning to embark on parenthood in times of rising inflationary pressure.
Indeed, self-reliance is often at the core of our policies, but that doesn’t equate to an uncaring Government.
As we can see from the measures in Budget 2023, care, compassion, and inclusivity are the tenets underlying our support for families.
And this is what the PAP will continue to champion now and in the future.
Cover Photo Credit: Made for Families/KidStart/HDB/MSF