Singapore has finally decided to extend the same maternity and other benefits to unwed mothers - at least some of it. However, the government was quick to point out that the move to help unmarried couples, "does not undermine parenthood within marriage, which is the prevalent social norm and one which local society values."
Tan Chuan-Jin, the Minister for Social and Family Development has promised to give more support to unwed parents and their children in a move to help these parents care for their children and "reduce the disadvantages that their children may face at birth."
One of the steps to be taken is to ensure that unwed mothers get the same 16-week maternity leave that married women are entitled to. In addition, children born to unwed parents will also be given a Child Development Account which will help pay for childcare and healthcare needs.
The move to extend these benefits, which are currently only available to married couples, to unwed parents, will take effect from early next year as Parliament will have to amend legislation. Children born to unwed mothers will however be entitled to the Child Development Account scheme from the third quarter of this year, he said.
"I, too, am sympathetic to this group. Unwed parents may be vulnerable if they are younger and lower-educated. Some may have been rejected by their own families. It can be difficult to raise a child single-handedly, without family support. Some may have hoped to have a child within marriage, but ended up as unwed parents by circumstances," the minister said.
At the moment, unwed mothers are only entitled to eight weeks of paid maternity leave. Their children are also not entitled to the Child Development Accounts. Under this scheme, the government matches deposits made by parents into these accounts up to $6,000 (£3,130, $4,465, €3,922).
Unwed mothers also do not get the Baby Bonus cash gift and parenthood tax rebates. They will also have to wait until they are 35 years old to be entitled to buy a government flat under the singles scheme.