Search for infant-care place starts before birth

SINGAPORE - Mr Felix Tan has been looking for an infant-care centre for his daughter for the past four months.

So far, he has not had much luck, and he is getting anxious - even though he is expecting his baby girl only in December.

Some may label him a kiasu parent, but the 29-year-old IT consultant said he learnt the lesson the hard way. When he tried to enrol his now one-year-old son in a childcare centre near his home in Tiong Bahru last year, he was turned away by about 10 centres, which were all full.

"Once I secure a place for my daughter in infant care, hopefully, that would put her in the front of the queue for childcare at the same centre when she turns 18 months," he said.

Parents like Mr Tan are finding it increasingly hard to secure a place at childcare centres for their children.

In housing estates with many young couples such as Punggol and Sengkang, some centres have more than 200 children on their waiting lists.

Demand for childcare services has almost doubled in the past eight years as more working parents send their tots to these centres.

To ease the crunch, the Government recently rolled out a slew of measures, including extending rental subsidies to private operators to encourage them to open more centres in the heartland and keep the fees low.

The aim is to add 20,000 more places by 2017 - enough for one in two children, up from one in three now.

More initiatives will be rolled out over the next few months to address another problem plaguing the sector: Finding enough teachers to helm the new centres.

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