Unwed mothers to receive 16-week maternity leave from next year

SINGAPORE - More benefits will soon be given to unwed mothers to reduce the disadvantages that their children face, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-jin said in Parliament on Tuesday (April 12).

These benefits include extending the 16-week Government-paid maternity leave, currently only enjoyed by married mothers, to unwed mothers as well. At present, unwed mothers are only entitled to eight weeks of maternity leave.

In addition, children of unwed mothers will also qualify to get a Child Development Account (CDA), while the $3,000 CDA First Step grant announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget speech will be extended to them too.

Mr Tan said that the maternity leave benefits will apply to unwed mothers from early next year, as the relevant legislation would need to be amended.

However, children of unwed mothers will be included in the CDA scheme from the third quarter of this year, as the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) is currently working on the legislation and system enhancements needed to get it in place.

"These benefits are useful in the child's developmental or caregiving needs. They also support the unwed parent's efforts to provide for the child," Mr Tan said.

Revealing the changes, he added that he was sympathetic to unwed parents who may face difficulties raising their children single-handedly without family support. He also pointed out that some may have become unwed parents by circumstance.

But Mr Tan noted that the extension of these benefits does not undermine parenthood within marriage, which is the prevalent social norm and which his ministry still encouraged.

seanyap@sph.com.sg