Many Singaporeans live up to what it means to be a global citizen. They have studied, worked, lived in different parts of the world, or simply have been surrounded by citizens of the world. But somehow, when it comes to raising their children, particularly in the formative years, these Singaporeans continue to choose home over anywhere else because they know: There is no place like home.
Even many expats are in favour of raising their children here. As reported by the Straits Times, when it comes to family benefits, 60% of expats in Singapore, against a global average of 45%, found their children’s health and well-being to be better here than at home. Why is that so? What makes Singapore so special?
The common answers say it’s peace and stability. Or often, you’ll hear about the top-notch health care and education systems. For some, it’s the enlightened and compassionate companies we work for.
The real answer to what makes Singapore the best country in the world for a child to grow up in — as you’ll see from what real parents have to say below — is not just one factor. It is all of these things and more: how family members support each other, how communities pull together, it’s everything working together towards a common goal: the welfare of Singaporeans and those who choose to make Singapore their home.
Let’s hear it from families on how instrumental this network of support has been in bringing joy to their parenting journey.
1. Pro-Family Workplaces
More employees in Singapore are now in companies that offer pro-family practices such as flexible work arrangements and support for breastfeeding mothers. According to MOM’s Conditions of Employment 2018 Report, about 72% of employees work in companies that offer at least one formal flexible work arrangement, up from 65% in 20154. And with the ongoing pandemic, working from home has also become the new normal. To keep employees and their families safe, companies have begun to embrace the work-from-home setup which has allowed parents to manage their time for work and be able to tend to their children.
Banazir Tahrik, principal cum training specialist at Global Tots @ Braddell Pte Ltd, shares how pro-family practices at her workplace enabled her to advance her career and further her studies without compromising on her time with her twin sons.
Flexible work hours enabled her to fetch her children from primary school, and to keep her evenings free for her children and her evening classes as well.
Raise Families in Singapore | Mr & Mrs Tahrik and their twin sons.
“We decided to get married and have our children young. I was barely 21 when I had my twins,” Mrs. Tahrik shared. “The best part [of having a family in Singapore] is raising your kids and growing with them. It definitely wasn’t easy being a working mum let alone one who was studying as well, but I have a supportive home and work environment that has enabled me to come a long way. It means a lot that I can be a mum without losing my identity and drive to be a career-driven, 21st century woman.”
Flexible work arrangements are not only for mums. Many companies offer extended paternity leave, leave to take children to school on the first day of the term and a host of other family-friendly workplace practices for dads.
This is especially true during the Covid-19 pandemic. Mr. Raghuraman Uthaman, from INTL FC Stone, shared that his company measures work by objectives completed as opposed to the time spent on it.
“This allows teams to distribute and allocate tasks according to individuals’ ability and situation while ensuring that the overall daily and ad-hoc requirements for each department are being met.”
2. Raising Families with Peace of Mind
Peace and stability is definitely at the top of every parent’s list, and it’s safe to say that Singapore remains unrivalled in this respect. Furthermore, there are numerous schemes and grants put in place by the government that help defray the cost of purchasing a home. Singapore has one of the highest homeownership rates in the world: an incredible 90% of the population in 2019.
One couple that we spoke to, the Cheongs, mentioned that they were initially apprehensive about having children due to the high cost of living. As they were then in their early twenties, they were still building their careers.
But after talking to people and doing their research, the Cheongs’ fears were assuaged knowing that in Singapore, public housing, healthcare and education are heavily subsidised.
They are especially thankful for the additional grants available for purchasing homes in close proximity to their parents. This enabled them to seek help for childcare without having to crowd their home.
“We are glad that we didn’t have to delay having a family. It is also comforting to know that no Singaporean child will ever be deprived of an education due to financial constraints. If we ever lose our jobs, our children will still go to school and that’s important,” they mentioned.
3. Accessible, Quality Childcare
While some couples have the option of help from their elderly parents, it isn’t the answer for everyone. In one family’s situation, the husband was in the police force and the wife was in healthcare. With two busy parents and no immediate family, they could tap to assist them, the availability of childcare proved to be invaluable.
“It’s not just the option of childcare but knowing that it is quality education with caring teachers that gives us the peace of mind to work,” they shared.
Mdm Aisah, who sends her two younger children to childcare, feels that her children are in a safe and pleasant environment, and that gives her clarity and focus at work.
“The teachers always greet my children with a big smile and a hug. Even the cooks and cleaners are always warm and welcoming. The uncle who helps to direct traffic goes out of his way, even bringing an umbrella on rainy days to shelter the children from the school to the driveway.”
In addition, Mdm Aisah finds comfort and strength from a community of mums within her neighbourhood, the Embracing Parenthood Movement (EPM).
“When I’m held up at work, or am not feeling so well, this circle of mums have been my lifesavers! They helped me with picking my children up from school and even sent me food.”
4. All You Need Within Your Neighbourhood
Mr and Mrs Tay were living abroad when they were blessed with their first child. Despite their comfortable life overseas, the couple decided on making the big move back to Singapore to raise their child. They mentioned how convenience was a major pull factor.
Where they lived, city rental costs were exorbitant, and living in the suburbs meant that they would have to commute a fair bit, especially when their child would start attending school.
In contrast, almost every housing estate in Singapore has plenty of amenities. From infant care centres to kindergartens, supermarkets to sports facilities, and, of course, schools. This meant that they wouldn’t have to leave their neighbourhood as much.
“We have everything within a stone’s throw from our flat in Punggol – a mall, the Punggol Waterway Park – a dream come true for the children, playgrounds and lots of family-friendly spaces within the vicinity! In fact, most neighbourhoods in Singapore have all of these. Even if we might not have huge nature parks everywhere, there are clean and safe playgrounds and fitness corners everywhere!”
Mariam Ottimfore, an expat mum, shares similar sentiments. She mentioned in an interview with Our Globetrotters, “Singapore is definitely one of the best places to raise a young family. There are tons of facilities for young children – playgrounds, zoos, museums and parks (The Singapore Botanic Garden used to be our favourite family spot).
They say it takes a village to raise a child and quite frankly nothing beats the Singapore village of today. And that’s why, notwithstanding the challenges, most Singaporeans come home — and stay home — to build their home.
Perhaps true to our humble beginnings, the kampong spirit is still present albeit in different ways. All of this is only possible with everyone’s support for families in Singapore.
This article is written in support of Made For Families.