Singapore - The number of childcare places in housing estates where there is a high demand for pre-school is set to grow by 40 per cent over the next four years.
This works out to about 8,000 additional places which will be made available in Punggol, Jurong West, Woodlands, Bukit Panjang and Tampines, said the Early Childhood Development Agency, which oversees the pre-school sector.
There are currently 20,000 childcare places in these five estates, with about 88 per cent of them filled as of July. Other high-demand areas include Sengkang and Marine Parade.
These estates, which have new housing projects sprouting up, tend to draw young couples starting families.
The agency gave The Straits Times an update on its plans to boost the number of childcare places, following its announcement last week that rental subsidies will be given to small and mid-sized operators to entice them to open more centres in these high-demand places.
Under the new measures, these operators can apply for up to 60 per cent rental subsidies when they set up in commercial buildings like malls. In return, they must meet affordability and quality criteria. For instance, fees must be capped at $850 a month for a full-day childcare programme over three years after their subsidy application is approved.
Parents and operators hope that the latest measures will ease the keen competition for childcare places, which appears to have intensified in the past few years.
Operators in Sengkang, which has about 70 childcare centres, said they have seen demand surge as more young couples move into newly completed flats.