On April 1 2013, Singapore increased the rate of subsidy for pre-school education. The measure, which was confirmed on January 23 2013 by Chan Chun Sing, Singapore's Acting Minister for Social and Family Development adds an additional subsidy of between 100 and 540 Singaporean dollars per child to the existing 300 dollar per child payment for families currently earning less than 7,500 Singaporean dollars per month. Almost two thirds of households in Singapore are affected by the changes. The new subsidy of childcare singapore will apply to all parents with children of ages ranging from 18 months to 7 years, enrolled in pre-school programs licensed by Singapore's ECDA (Early Childhood Development Agency) The basic subsidy remains unchanged whereas the additional subsidy is calculated on a means-tested basis with lower income families receiving increasing levels of assistance. Parents with particularly large families will be relieved to note that they may apply for the additional subsidy to be calculated on an income per-capita basis for their children. In addition to the pre-school education subsidy, Singapore also offers families a generous subsidy for infant care for children up to 18 months of age. This move in support of parents greatly increases Singapore's spending in this area. The total expenditure being raised to 360 million Singaporean Dollars, up from the previous 255 million.
It is clear, that with birth rates in Singapore now only slightly above a 2010 all-time-low, the government has chosen to make an investment in the future of the Singaporean workforce. The slump in birth rates have raised concern over that future, with many citizens concerned about the resulting influx of immigrant workers, and the resulting effects on the Singaporean economy. This period of development presents significant challenges in manpower for Singapore. For centuries the traditional model of the family has dominated life in Singapore. Much as in other traditional cultures, men were expected to work while women were expected to stay at home and bring up the children. Increased educational opportunities for women and the demands of a transformed and modernized job market have left Singapore with a serious shortage of skilled and educated people to fill the available jobs. The ideal solution from a Singaporean economic standpoint is to increase the presence of women within the workplace. The demand for workers however is creating a problem which may be devastating to Singapore's economy fifteen to twenty years from now. Singaporean couples are deferring having families, fearing the the cost of care for their children might be too high to bear. This has led to the aforementioned slump in fertility rates. The government has responded by providing the new subsidies as an incentive for women to start families while providing an affordable way to get back to work at the soonest opportunity. If the challenges of the new economic market are not met, Singapore may reach the end of the 2020's with an economically crippling shortage of native born workers. The results could be disastrous with companies who are unavailable to fill positions with educated and skilled people looking elsewhere for their headquarters and manufacturing base, outsourcing of vital service industries to other countries, or at the very least, necessitating a huge surge in immigration.
The new investment in education may also signal a desire government to send a clear message if reassurance that it does not wish native born Singaporeans to be pushed out of skilled jobs due to lack of education. A move which now places Singapore firmly in the top half of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's list of countries with affordable pre-school services. Something of which all Singaporean citizens can be justly proud.