A case for government to help parents pay for childcare

I’m concerned. I am at the stage of my life where I am considering whether I should have kids. I really want to. But… Can my wife and I cope? Parenting looks like an extremely tough job.

And expensive too. Childcare, milk powder, enrichment. So those things are making me think twice whether I should have kids. And I’m sure there are many other young couples like mine who have the same concerns.

It certainly doesn’t help when we read that the fees of childcare keep going up. Yes. We get it. The childcare operators need to increase revenue so that they can provide better quality education and care for the children.

But can’t the operators get the money from the government?

Shouldn’t we be spending on an existential issue?

The government will say that we have to be prudent with our government spending. We don’t have infinite resources. There are many competing depends on our national finances. And we cannot spend what we don’t have. They say we MUST never dip into our reserves.

As it is, a significant part of our government’s annual budget is funded by the earnings the net investment returns generated by our reserves. If we dip into our reserves, it means it will generate less earnings that we can use to fund the budget for future generations.

But our birth rates are already very low. If Singaporeans are further discouraged from having children by the costs of bringing up children, then the birth rates will go even lower. If that happens, there might not be many more future generations of Singaporeans. And that is an existential issue.

To paraphrase Minister Chan Chun Sing, while it may not be so in 1965, it is certainly becoming so yesterday, it is so today, and it will be so tomorrow. Do we want want to have huge reserves, but no Singaporeans to spend those reserves on?

Especially if that spending will likely pay for itself eventually?

Besides, spending on good quality early childhood care and education is an investment that could possibly pay for itself. There is research which suggests that the economic return from providing quality early education to children in poverty far exceeds the costs. After all, what’s easier and more cost efficient? To provide quality care and education for a child when he is young? Or to wait until the child becomes a delinquent youth then punish and rehabilitate that youth? The answer is obvious.

And it’s not just children in poverty that would benefit from good quality early childhood education and care. Another research suggests that an investment in providing good quality early childhood education and care would boost educational achievement, improve economic growth rates, and raise standards of living across the income spectrum. It has also been found that such an investment will result in savings in government spending on child welfare, the criminal justice system, and public health. This investment could also lead to higher tax revenues as the children grow up to be more economically productive.

Let’s seriously consider investing in our future

So. If we really want to be prudent in the way we spend our money, if we really want to get the biggest bang for our buck, if we really want to invest in and for the future of Singapore, then perhaps we should really seriously consider significantly increasing the expenditure on early childhood education and care.


A case for government to help parents pay for childcare

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