Most eligible fathers did not take paternity leave last year, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Most eligible fathers did not take paternity leave last year

This article is more than 12 months old

Take-up rate of 35% is a drop from 53% in 2017 and 47% in 2016

Two-thirds of eligible fathers did not take any paternity leave last year, despite the Government's ongoing efforts to get men more involved in raising their children.

According to estimates released yesterday by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), the vast majority of fathers also did not take any shared parental leave.

The ministry was responding to Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC), who asked for the proportion of fathers who did not take government-paid paternity leave and shared parental leave.

The take-up rate for paternity leave was 35 per cent last year, compared to 53 per cent in 2017 and 47 per cent in 2016.

Experts say the relatively low take-up rates for paternity leave in Singapore could stem from a combination of company culture, societal attitudes on gender roles and self-policing at work.

MSF said its numbers were based on records of employers who submitted claims for leave taken by their employees, and the pool of eligible fathers based on their working status when they applied for the Baby Bonus.

It also pointed out that the take-up rate for paternity leave last year is likely to increase, as men have up to a year after their child's birth to take leave.

Even so, Singapore is lagging behind the Nordic countries such as Denmark and Sweden, where take-up rates for paternity leave stand at around 70 to 80 per cent.

Government-paid paternity leave, introduced in 2013 for married couples, was doubled to two weeks in 2017.

Shared parental leave has also increased to four weeks, up from one week before.

Singapore Management University sociologist Paulin Straughan said the low take-up rate among fathers could partly be due to traditional ideas about women as primary caregivers, though norms have progressed.

But Prof Straughan also said the numbers could reflect private decisions by couples for one person to take a step back to care for their children, so the family unit as a whole is not disadvantaged.

Experts also noted that employees in smaller companies may not be aware of paternity leave benefits, while others may have informal arrangements in place which allow men to shoulder their family responsibilities without having to take leave.

"For example, mobile technology allows people to balance between work and family without having to formally apply for paternity leave," said Mr Kurt Wee, who is president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises.


In a ceremony to honour exemplary dads last month, President Halimah Yacob had urged more firms to adopt flexible policies for working fathers.

Ms Shailey Hingorani, who is head of research and advocacy at Aware, said the low take-up rates for paternity leave reflect "the deep entrenchment of gender norms that think of men and women as primary breadwinners and caregivers respectively".

This view was echoed by Mr Ng, who told The Straits Times that society may still feel it is a woman's job to take care of children.