How young families can maximise government benefits
As Budget 2020 draws closer, there's been talk about what's in store for Singaporeans this year.
So far, we've heard there will be provisions for promoting volunteerism and assisting seniors with their retirement needs.
The government will also put more emphasis on partnering and supporting Singaporeans, transforming the country's industries and workforce, as well as ensuring environmental and financial sustainability.
These will, of course, come on top of the existing Budget measures that have been announced in the past years.
While we wait for more details to be unveiled at Budget 2020, let's quickly recap some of the Budget measures in recent years that we can still benefit from - and how a young family can maximise them.
SUPPORT FOR AGED PARENTS
Look around us. Singapore's population is ageing, as people live longer and our birth rate remains low. Currently, about 15 per cent of Singaporeans are aged 65 and above. By 2030, this will increase to 25 per cent.
To address Singapore's ageing population, $5.1 billion has been set aside for the Long-Term Care Support Fund. This will help fund CareShield Life premium subsidies and other long-term care support measures such as ElderFund (which started on 31 Jan 2020).
According to the Ministry of Health, 1 in 2 healthy Singaporeans aged 65 could become severely disabled in their lifetime, prompting the need for long-term care.
Check out the long-term care financing enhancements (2020) here.
Currently, the government subsidises up to 80 per cent of medical costs for subsidised patients who require inpatient treatments in public hospitals. Lower- to middle-income families also receive subsidies for medication at public Specialist Outpatient Clinics and polyclinics of up to 75 per cent.
Apart from the Pioneer Generation Package (PGP) launched in 2014, there's also the Merdeka Generation Package (MGP) announced at Budget 2019, which supports the aspirations of the MG seniors in their silver years by helping them to stay active and healthy, while providing them better peace of mind over healthcare costs.
The 5 main MGP benefits include:
- PAssion Silver Card top-up
- MediSave top-ups
- Outpatient care subsidies
- CareShield Life participation incentives
- Additional MediShield Life premium subsidies
ENHANCED HOUSING BENEFITS
Young Singaporean families will also be assured of affordable public housing by the government, with bigger housing grants now available as of 2019.
With the new Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG), eligible first-timer families buying new flats can get up to $80,000 in housing grants. Should they choose to buy a resale flat, they can get up to $160,000 in housing grants. These grants are awarded regardless of flat type and location.
Note: The EHG replaces the Additional Housing Grant (AHG) and Special Housing Grant (SHG).
There's also the Proximity Housing Grant (PHG), which was enhanced in 2018, so that resale flat buyers (both singles and couples/families) who want to live with/near parents can now get up to $30,000 in housing grants. It also works the other way round - so your parents can get a resale flat close to you (and their grandkids).
In addition, the PHG proximity radius has been expanded from 2km to 4km. This means more housing options are now open for resale housing hunters! Check out the helpful HDB distance enquiry tool here.
There are other grants to help you along, such as the CPF Housing Grant (up to $50,000). Find out how to maximise your housing grants.
Some of the government's Budget also goes into rejuvenating heartland estates for better amenities and to create more vibrant public spaces. Read about the Remaking Our Heartland initiative here.
EXTRA HELP AT HOME
Taking care of a young child (or children) and living with your elderly parents can be an uphill task, and an extra pair of hands at home can really lighten the load.
Good news - families who have a young child (below 16 years old) and/or elderly person (at least 67 years old) qualify for the $60 Foreign Domestic Worker (FDW) levy concession. Households that have a person with disability (PWD) are also eligible for this FDW levy concession.
This monthly levy, enhanced in 2019, is a pricing mechanism to regulate the number of foreign workers in Singapore. It ends when your FDW's work permit expires or is cancelled.
The levy amount for 1 FDW in a household without caregiving needs is $300. The levy amount of each additional FDW employed in the same household without caregiving needs is $450. Those who are eligible for the concessionary levy only pay $60 a month.
CAREER AND SKILLS TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES
When it comes to career development, the government has rolled out various initiatives to help workers who want to upskill, switch vocations or find employment.
With the SkillsFuture movement, there are lots of opportunities to learn new things - whether it is to give you a leg up in your career, reskill for an emerging role, make it easier for you to land a new job, re-enter the workforce (i.e. if you are a stay-at-home-mum), explore your interests, or to gain more life skills.
- $5,000 SkillsFuture Study Awards
- $500 SkillsFuture Credit
- Up to 90 per cent subsidies for courses supported by SkillsFuture Singapore
Under Workforce Singapore's Adapt and Grow initiatives, close to 45,000 jobseekers have benefitted. One of these initiatives is the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) that assists workers in career transition - there are over 100 PCPs available to help Singaporeans take on careers in new growth areas.
Other initiatives that the government has rolled out to ready Singaporeans for the future economy include, but are not limited to:
- Tech skills accelerator (TeSA) - to develop tech and digital talents
- Global-Ready Talent Programme - provides overseas internships and job postings for young Singaporeans in local enterprises to gain international exposure
EDUCATION AND CHILDCARE BENEFITS
From this year onwards, you can choose from over 8,000 centre-based infant care places for your little ones. So you can be closer to your kid even after you return to the workforce. Young families will continue to enjoy quality, accessible and affordable preschools.
Here are some of the measures that have been implemented:
- Over 80 per cent increase in full-day childcare places since 2012
- Up to $1,140 monthly infant care subsidies
- Up to $740 monthly childcare subsidies
- Up to $170 Kindergarten Fee Assistance (KiFAS)
- Additional 4,000 preschool places (bringing the total to over 8,000)
The government subsidises over 90 per cent of the total costs of educating children. On average, every child would have received over $130,000 of education subsidies by the time they complete secondary school.
There are many more government benefits available
The schemes mentioned above are just some examples of how a young family can benefit from government benefits rolled out during recent Budgets.
Keep your eyes peeled for Budget 2020, which should contain plans by the Government to continue supporting Singaporeans throughout our different stages in life.
In addition, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat has announced earlier that Budget 2020 will provide more details on the GST support package, which will help to cushion the impact of the impending GST hike. This further provides support to families who are concerned about growing costs. Read our article on GST changes here.
There are many more schemes that can benefit not only young families but all Singaporeans - yes, this is where our tax dollars go to. (When we pay taxes, this money gets pumped into public spending and in turn, we get to enjoy significant benefits through government initiatives.
Typically, the lower- and middle-income households will get back more in benefits than what they would have paid in taxes.)
This article was first published in MoneySmart.