Childcare has long been a strong area of contention among Singaporeans as many Singaporeans often find childcare costs too high. This issue was recently debated in Parliament and the Worker's Party has suggested that childcare should be made into a non-profit service for all Singaporeans. Read this article to find out more about this issue.
The Ministry of Community Development Youth & Sport (MCYS) is reviewing its Childcare Anchor Operator Scheme, and its resulting subsidies for authorized centers will be announced during the second quarter of this year.
Established as a measure against rising childcare costs, the government program aims to keep pre-school education affordable for all families. The 2 current anchor operators are PAP’s PCF and NTUC’s My First Skool . Both mainly operate in HDB void decks to provide convenient and quality childcare to their respective communities.
Punggol East Workers Party (WP) members recently raised questions regarding why out of 5 qualified applicants, only 2 have been awarded anchor operator status. Furthermore, both anchor operators are run by government-linked organizations. The lack of transparency surrounding the scheme’s eligibility criteria was criticized by then-WP candidate Lee Li Lian, who also notes that other unsubsidized operators have been forced to raise their fees to stay afloat. The WP has even gone on to propose that childcare in Singapore should be made a public good. In other words, childcare should be a non-profit service.
Rebuttal and clarification
Speaking for the scheme in Parliament, acting MCYS Minister Chan Chun Sing stresses that the existing criteria have been set to “ensure that the operators’ programs are accessible to children of all backgrounds, and that the government’s funding goes towards serving the public good rather than public profit.”
All anchor operators are required to demonstrate financial stability as well as adhere to strict quality and affordability targets set by the Ministry. Enhancements will not be universal, so it is unlikely that operators will be able to raise fees across all of their centers. This ensures that the subsidies reach the targeted families in lower income groups.
MCYS intends to continue expanding the number of childcare centers through the Anchor Operator Scheme to keep fees in check. Along with the scheme, they will keep on facilitating the development of more centers in areas of high demand. Chan also said that statistics on the number and distribution of new childcare centers will be premature at this point, as new operators have not been chosen or made submissions for new sites.
Pasir Ris-Punggol MP Teo Ser Luck noted that building new childcare centers in Punggol East is going to be a challenge as PAP are no longer the area’s representatives, having lost the seat to WP’s Lee.