Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why the latest Worklife balance campaign will fail

Recently there were alot of news on a slew of initiatives by the Singapore government to increase our birth rate back to 2.1.

Summary of the monetary terms for increasing the birth rate:
  • Qualifying Child Relief/Handicapped Child Relief (QCR/HCR): For parents with qualifying children (existing or newborn), the QCR will increase from $2000 to $4,000 per child, and the HCR from $3,500 to $5,500 per child.

  • Working Mother’s Child Relief (WMCR): Working mothers with qualifying Singaporean children (existing or newborn) will enjoy higher WMCR. Currently, the WMCR for the first, second, third and fourth child are 5%, 15%, 20% and 25% of the mother's earned income respectively. The WMCR will now be 15% and 20% of the mother's earned income for the first and second child respectively, and 25% per child for the third and subsequent child. The WMCR will be subject to an overall cap of 100% of the mother’s earned income for all her qualifying children.

  • Combined QCR/HCR and WMCR: The total amount of QCR/HCR and WMCR claimable will be capped at $50,000 per child, twice the current cap of $25,000. Parents will be able to claim the enhanced QCR/HCR and WMCR from Year of Assessment 2009.

  • Parenthood Tax Rebate (PTR): Currently, PTR is only available for the second to fourth qualifying Singaporean child in a family. Going forward, PTR will be extended to the first child and beyond the fourth child. The PTR will be $5,000 for the first child, $10,000 for the second, and $20,000 for each subsequent child. Both the father and the mother may use the PTR to offset their income tax payable. Parents of children born or legally adopted on or after 1 Jan 2008 will be able to claim the enhanced PTR from Year of Assessment 2009.

  • Both elements of the Baby Bonus, i.e. cash gift and dollar-for-dollar government matching contribution for the Children Development Account (CDA), will be enhanced. With the enhancements, the Baby Bonus will be up to $10,000 for each of the first two children and up to $18,000 for each subsequent child. The enhanced Baby Bonus applies to Singaporean babies born on or after 1 Jan 2009.

    Cash gift: The cash gift for the first and second child will be raised from $3,000 to $4,000. The cash gift for the third and fourth child remains at the current level of $6,000.

    CDA: The government matching contribution will be extended to the first child at up to $6,000. The matching contribution for the CDA for the second, third and fourth child will remain at the current levels. For the fifth child and beyond, a dollar-for-dollar matching for the CDA of up to $18,000 per child will be introduced.

  • Affordability of childcare: From 1 Jan 2009, the subsidy for working mothers sending
    their Singaporean children to centre-based childcare will increase from
    $150 to a maximum of $300 per month per child and the subsidy for centrebased
    infant care will increase from $400 to a maximum of $600 per month
    per child.

The other measures include IVF, childcare, leave and worklife balance. Our Prime minister actually emphasized alot on worklife balance. However, there's one big problem. It was actually highlighted in plain terms in today's ST.

We have no spares.

Simple sentence that describes why the worklife balance will fail. The PM has also said this in a different way. In his lingo, he said that we must be competitive.

That's the main problem for families in Singapore. No spares mean that we have no one to cover us, or at most a temp person that can maybe take over half of what I can do. Therefore, how can the boss of the company afford to let anyone go for extended periods of time?? That's the direct result of being competitive. All companies, including the government, also have the lowest bid wins mentality. Therefore in Singapore, we're so lean that sometimes a person can be doing many things at one time, with no backup.

Now bringing the foreign talent(FT) into the picture, it would become far worse. Most foreign talents do not bring their family into Singapore, and I do include PRs. They have few friends in Singapore too. Therefore, if you let any boss choose between a FT who can work long hours, and a Singaporean who is going to start a family, who do you think the boss will choose? Few bosses now choose base on quality.

So even with all the above monetary benefits dangling in front of us, we'll still need to take into account the most important part, which is our rice bowl. Do you think that if given a chance, we do not want to do a bit lesser, and go back home earlier for more R&R?? We really do not have a choice on this worklife balance.

Why? Because we're too competitive... That's why.

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