THE call to give unwed mothers the same benefits as married mums is valid.
But so is the national policy that supports parenthood in the context of marriage.
Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing highlighted the delicate task of balancing these requests yesterday in his reply to Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC).
Mr Seah had asked for unwed mothers to be given the same maternity leave and childcare benefits as married mums.
But there is yet another call, Mr Chan said - giving the best support for all Singaporean children regardless of their parentage.
And it is this last area that has got much of the support.
He said: "The bulk of all our support focuses on the child at the centre, because we believe that the child is innocent and should be given the best support possible.
"The best thing and the most important thing that we must do for the child is to provide education opportunities, good healthcare, good social environment for them to be brought up to fulfil his talent as much as possible."
Currently, unwed mothers get eight weeks of paid maternity leave, instead of the 16 weeks that married mums receive.
They also do not get such perks as the Baby Bonus cash gift and parenthood tax rebates.
But their struggles are not unfamiliar to Mr Chan, who was raised by his single mother.
"The journey is not easy and often goes beyond providing sufficient monetary benefits and incentives," he said.
Noting that some countries have decided to forgo support for parents within the context of marriage, he asked how Singapore is to "moderate the gradient" between supporting unwed mothers and married parents.
Acknowledging that the policies may shift as society evolves, Mr Chan said that the current aim of giving social support for all "gives our children the best chance".
Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Low Yen Ling said earlier in the day that single parents who face financial difficulties can turn to measures like ComCare aid and student care assistance.
Earlier this week, Ms Grace Fu, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said that while unmarried single parents cannot receive benefits that encourage marriage, they can tap others that help them care for their children, such as Medisave grants as well as childcare and infantcare subsidies.
Ms Low also addressed Non-Constituency MP Lina Chiam's suggestion to have baby drops for distressed mothers to leave their unwanted babies.
Countries with such services have reported mixed results, Ms Low said, with some experiencing the "downside of encouraging baby abandonment".
In Singapore, these mothers can turn to hotlines, counselling and residential services for help to carry their pregnancy to full term, she added.
This article was first published on Mar 14, 2015.
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