Parliamentary reply by Minister Josephine Teo on why fathers are not taking their paternity leave
THIRTEENTH PARLIAMENT OF SINGAPORE
MONDAY, 2 MARCH 2020
Mr Louis Ng:
To ask the Prime Minister (a) whether the Government has conducted a study into why fathers are not taking their paternity leave; (b) if so, what are the results of the study; and (c) if not, whether it will consider doing so.
Mrs Josephine Teo (for the Prime Minister):
The Government has studied the barriers to fathers using their paternity leave, which can be taken within a year of the child’s birth, through focus group discussions and interviews with fathers from a range of backgrounds.
Our research showed that most fathers are keen to use their paternity leave and play a bigger role in child-raising. Across different types of jobs and companies, the key factor affecting fathers’ utilisation of paternity leave is workplace support. This includes whether supervisors are adequately assuring that using paternity leave will not affect fathers’ career prospects and that colleagues are willing to cover fathers’ duties in their absence. The influence of workplace norms on paternity leave take-up is similar to other East Asian societies, such as South Korea and Japan, where take-up rates of paternity leave are less than 10%1.
Even though workplace norms take time to change, we have seen encouraging progress. Our paternity leave take-up rate has risen from 25% in 20132 to 53% in recent cohorts. In the public sector, the majority of fathers (84%) take paternity leave. Even in Nordic countries where paternity leave has been implemented much earlier, the take-up rates are around 70%-80%3. More employers in Singapore are also adopting the Tripartite Standards on Flexible Work Arrangements and Unpaid Leave for Unexpected Care Needs, to support their employees in managing their work and family responsibilities.
A whole-of-society effort is needed for fathers to feel supported in taking time-off from work to spend time with their children. We will continue to work with employers and other community partners such as the Centre for Fathering to provide better support for parents and promote greater paternal involvement in child raising.
1 Source: Statistics from South Korean and Japanese newspapers and national statistics websites.
2 Statutory Paternity Leave was introduced in 2013.
3 Source: International Network on Leave Policies and Research (2019), OECD (2019).