Single mothers and their predicament in Singapore
While other expectant mothers immerse in the joy of pregnancy, a group of mothers-to-be spend sleepless nights wondering what’s next for them and their unborn child.
This group of mothers-to-be is the unmarried, single mothers.
Even in today’s sophisticated society, single parent families, commonly known as ‘broken’ are often stigmatized and perceived as not entirely functional as two parent families.
I had send emails to MOM, MCYS, IRAS and HDB respectively and confirmed that all mothers, except unmarried single mothers, in Singapore, are entitled to the following:
-3 months of maternity leave (1st 2 months funded by employer and the 3rd month by MOM)Unwed mums are not entitled to the 3rd month unless they marry within 6 months to the man who fathered the child (amended in 2007).
-Baby Bonus which consists of cash gift as well as topping up of CDA account with cash.
-Income Tax Relief such as; parenthood tax relief, foreign maid levy relief, grandparents care giver relief and working mothers’ child relief
-The eligibility for new HDB flats (a single below age 35 and a child below age 21 do not form a family nucleus)
The question is why are they left out from these entitlements?
A report by Radha Basu in Straits Times on 15th April 2005, titled “Single mums’ plea: Don’t ignore us”, highlighted the plight of single mums in Singapore. Mr. Sin Boon Ann who is currently the MP for Tampines GRC, was not surprised that there were more unwed mums.
‘Being better educated and financially independent gives them the choice to raise babies single-handedly.’
To me, the response meant; our Society calls for and only recognizes a certain kind of family as family, and if you have chosen to be not in this category, then stop complaining that you are left out from the entitlements.
‘Single by chance, mothers by choice!’
If being a single mum is a choice, then let us compare it with ex-offenders. Can I say that before one commits any crime, he is aware of the risk involved and that may end him up in prison? With that in mind, he went ahead to take the risk. So a choice had been made here. Ex-offenders are given a 2nd chance through the ‘Yellow Ribbon’ project.
What about single mums who made a choice to be one? Where is the 2nd chance for single mums who had so bravely took up the moral responsibility? She could have just made the choice of aborting the child. It seems that being responsible is now worse off than being irresponsible! Ex-offenders commit crimes and is given a 2nd chance, unwed mums had the most committed a sin but is more often than not, given the death penalty by the society.
Please note, I have nothing against ex-offenders, I'm simply using it as a comparison on why single mums should have their 2nd chance too.
Apart from choice, irresponsible fathers-to-be and broken relationships are probably other key factors why a woman would choose to do it alone. Let’s be realistic, very few decided to be single mums by choice from scratch. More often than not, it’s a case of ‘A moment of passion and a lifetime of regrets!’
Why should single-mums be given the same benefits as other mothers?
1) Single mums are tax-payers too. Their sons will serve National Service and daughters will continue to bear and nurture future generations for Singapore
2) Regardless of marital status, all mothers love and want to provide their children with the best they possibly can. All children have similar needs, these mothers need caregivers too, so why exclude them from tax relief, caregiver relief and maid-levy relief? Why penalize the child?
3) Most importantly, these mothers need to provide themselves and their children a roof over their heads. Why then exclude them from being eligible for application for new HDB flats? Yes, they do have another choice that is to purchase from the open market which is more expensive.
4) Maternity leave benefit for single mums (amended in 2007) is putting more pressure on them to get married to someone whom the marriage may eventually turn sour. This in turn may cause more social issues and mental or emotional turmoil which of course will increase the divorce rates. The objective of maternity leave is for mothers to recuperate and care for the child; hence her marital status is irrelevant!
5) Pre-marital sex that leads to unplanned pregnancy is often seen as immoral or sinful. An unwed mum who decides to do it single-handedly faces more difficulties and such bias policies may cause her to abandon the child right after birth due to massive stress or to abort! Newspapers reports such as ‘Dead baby found among trash’, is painful and uncalled for. Are we committing something more sinful and disastrous here? For instance, ‘indirect murder’?
6) See the value, not the cost. Was it because the government is not able to see the value that this group of mothers can bring to the society hence they are seeing the cost of providing for these mothers? We should acknowledge the value that they had and will bring to the economy. Because only when one sees the value then the cost becomes insignificant.
7) If two parent families are deemed to be best for children, then does it imply that children from single parent families are at a disadvantage? If so, all the more help should be rendered to them.
8) These babies increase the population of Singapore.
Braema Mathi, former Nominated MP said in the same article (15th April 2005) that, ‘if unwed mothers are not given the same benefits as married ones, this inevitably will affect the child.’ She also drew the line at providing benefits to women who had more than one child born out of wedlock. I totally agree with what had been said.
By giving this group of mothers equal benefits as what the rest are having does not means encouraging more women to go into single motherhood. It works the same way as the ‘Yellow Ribbon Project’, does creating awareness for this project means that we are encouraging crimes?
A different set of criteria can be given to this group. That is only the 1st child who is born out of wedlock will get the benefits like other mothers. Subsequently, they will not be eligible for the benefits.
A cursory search on Google showed that there isn’t much support network for single mums available in Singapore. Or probably it’s not as prominent or publicly aware of.
The only one I know of is, ‘Flyin Solo’, founded by two such mums in 2004. They have been petitioning the government for more benefits. However, they had not been successful in this aspect. Nevertheless, they had provided as much support as they can to these mothers.
The society and family should help, give encouragement, provide mental and emotional support, build their self confidence and self esteem, so that these mothers are able to provide a more relaxed and conducive environment for their children.Help should be easily available and accessible for these mothers.
Lastly, may I say this on behalf of all unwed mums - We are not asking the government to bend the policies for us. What we are asking for is equal and fair treatment from the government which brings us to our pledge, “…….based on justice and equality, so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our Nation."