Letter to Straits Times Forum: Social policy shifts and stay-at-home mum

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Stay-at-home mums play a vital role in nurturing our families, and for many years, PAP Women MPs have championed the cause of providing them with more security and empowerment.

With the introduction of Government programs, such as the Pioneer Generation Package, Medishield Life and Silver Support Scheme, stay-at-home mums who have always depended on their families for financial support can now enjoy greater independence, with improved assurance of healthcare and financial support in their autumnal years.

In our view, the SkillsFuture initiative announced during this Budget, is a game changer especially for homemakers who until now do not benefit from employer-sponsored training. For the first time women will be empowered to take charge of their own skills development. Stay-at-home mums can continue to keep their skills current, which will then ease their re-entry to the workforce, should they decide to return to work later. We hope all women will seize this opportunity to embrace life-long learning and leverage on SkillsFuture to pursue their life goals.

For women thinking of returning to the workforce, there are now more opportunities than before. In recent years, the tight labour market have enabled more women to be re-employed and to enjoy more flexible work arrangements. Employers can tap the 266,000 economically inactive women, still in their prime working age. They will need to think creatively about making jobs more attractive and flexible to these women. Improvements in childcare capacity and services have also helped women better juggle family and work commitments. As a result, the women labour force participation rate at prime working age is now all time high at 76%, having grown at its fastest rate in 4 years.

Of course, the picture is not all rosy, and there continue to be areas for improvement. We are concerned that stay-at-home mums, not having accumulated much CPF, cannot benefit from the slew of CPF enhancements recently announced. They will continue to rely on their spouses’ CPF for their retirement. Therefore, even as the CPF enhancements provide members with greater flexibility, it must be exercised with the goal of also providing retirement adequacy for their spouses. The Government is encouraging spouses and children to top up the Retirement Account of their loved ones by paying an additional 1% for the first $30,000 for members above 55 years old. I have asked that joint consent of both spouses be required when a member’s CPF withdrawal is linked to a CPF charge on the couple’s jointly-owned property.

There is still much we can do to educate and encourage couples to optimise the balances in their CPF. Financial literacy and understanding of the latest changes in CPF regulations are essential to help women attain retirement adequacy. To raise awareness, PAP Womens Wing will start a movement to help women and their family members understand the impact of these changes and to make better decisions for the family.

Ms Foo Mee Har
Member of Parliament for West Coast GRC
Treasurer, PAP Women’s Wing Executive Committee

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