Home big read The Big Read in short: How to get men to take on fair share of parenting?

The Big Read in short: How to get men to take on fair share of parenting?

The Big Read in short: How to get men to take on fair share of parenting?

Each week, TODAY’s long-running Big Read series delves into the trends and issues that matter. This week, we look at the impact of paternity leave and what it would take for men to take on a fair share of parenting. This is a shortened version of the full feature, which can be found here.


Nicole Lam

The amendment seeks to allow fathers to be more involved in caring for their children from the very beginning.

Paternity leave in Singapore was institutionalised in 2013 under the Act amid a rise in dual-career married couples and declining birth rates. At the beginning, working fathers were given one week of government-paid paternity leave. In 2017, this was increased to two weeks.  

Prior to the amendments to the Act earlier in September, the Government reimbursed employers a maximum of S$5,000 for two weeks of paternity leave taken by their employees. The enhancements will double the reimbursement limits for employers. 


Studies conducted internationally and in Singapore have shown that there are many positive ripple effects when fathers play a more active parenting role right from the beginning. One local study, for example, found that paternity leave of two weeks or longer can lead to better family relations, closer relationships between father and child, as well as fewer behavioural problems in children. 

Increasing paternity leave in Singapore is “well-warranted” as it allows fathers to be thoroughly engaged in child-rearing, sociologists and psychologists who specialise in parenting and childhood told TODAY. Such involvement, especially in the first few weeks for new parents, will take some burden off the mother, increase marital satisfaction and foster even stronger familial relationships, they said. 

“How many times has the office congratulated a co-worker on the birth of their child but also, in the same breath, complained about how much more productive they need to be as they cover their colleagues’ work while they are away on leave?” Ms Yeo Wan Ling (Pasir Ris-Punggol Group Representation Constituency) asked.


To reduce the stigma against paternity leave, employers should normalise the many facets of fatherhood, said NUS’ Asst Prof Chung.  

“Employers must be convinced that paternity leave will not hurt their bottom line but can, in fact, translate into actual economic benefit for the organisation,” she added.

Besides more empathy in the workplace, an increase in paternity leave is also a step towards gender equality when it comes to child-rearing, the experts said. 

Asst Prof Cheung from NTU also stressed that the traditional script of husbands as “breadwinners” ‘and wives as sole “caregivers” hurts both mothers and fathers and “puts undue burden on both parents”.

“The truth is that no one is a born caregiver — fathers and mothers are just as likely to be good caregivers for their children,” said Asst Prof Cheung. 

Ultimately, for men to take on a fair share of parenting, beyond the first few weeks of welcoming an addition to the family, there needs to be a rethink of traditional gender roles in a family.