Like most developed countries today, families in Singapore often see both parents working in order to support the household. With both parents away at work, childcare support becomes critical to those with young ones.
To help with decision-making, we’ve put together available options for working parents and potential subsidies for those who need them.
Infant care (2 to 18 months)
As a general guide, infant care services apply to children between the ages of two to eighteen months. These are available in the form of half- and full-day care programmes, and can be a big help to working parents.
The advantage is having a safe, structured environment in which the physical, cognitive and social needs of your child are well-catered for. Infant care centres are required to employ specially trained staff such as state-registered nurses or qualified infant care teachers.
With a ratio of one caregiver to five infants (compared to one teacher to 25 kindergarten-age children), infants get more attention. Socially, the exposure to other children can also be beneficial and better prepare them for school later on.
Preschool or Childcare (18 months to 6 years)
Also offered in half-day and full-day programmes, preschool or childcare centres cater for children between 18 months to six years old. The good thing is, meals for the children are provided. This typically includes two meals (breakfast and lunch) and one to two snacks.
Like in infant care services, children in preschool benefit from opportunities to socialise with others in a safe and regulated environment. Under the supervision of certified staff trained in childhood care and early education, parents can be assured that their children are properly cared for.
Kindergarten (3 to 6 years)
In contrast to preschool or childcare programmes, kindergarten programmes tend to be more academically focused. This is no surprise given that the main purpose of kindergarten is to ready children for formal primary school education.
Following the same school term schedule as primary schools, kindergarten programmes typically last for three hours on weekdays. Except for light snacks, children in kindergarten are not provided meals due to the shorter hours.
Nannies or babysitters (no age restrictions)
Hiring nannies or babysitters would appeal to parents seeking more specialised and dedicated care for their child. Parents have more flexibility in terms of care arrangements with agencies offering options such as home-based care and overnight babysitting.
In the hands of an experienced nanny or babysitter, parents will have very little to worry about. With years of experience in nurturing and bringing up children, they can provide invaluable assistance and advice.
Subsidies and financial assistance
One of the biggest challenges to parents is cost. Whether it is childcare or kindergarten, such fees are not cheap. In Singapore, there are subsidies and financial assistance schemes available to help lower income parents with formal childcare. In such cases, childcare centre operators can help with applications and any necessary paperwork upon enrolment.
According to the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), a Basic Subsidy is available for all children who are Singapore Citizens and currently enrolled in an ECDA-licensed child-care centre. This is contingent upon the mother’s working status and the programme the child is enrolled in.
Additional subsidies are also available for families with mothers or single fathers who work at least 56 hours or more per month and whose monthly household income does not exceed $7,500.
For kindergarten programmes, parents can tap on the Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme (KiFAS). To qualify, your child must be a Singapore Citizen and be enrolled in kindergartens approved under the scheme. In addition, the gross monthly household income be $6,000 or less and/or for larger families, the per capita income must be $1,500 and below.
One-time start-up grant
The Government also provides a one-time start-up grant of up to $1,000 per child to help low-income parents with the initial cost of placing a child in a centre. The grant amount covers expenditure items such as the deposit, uniforms, registration fee and insurance charges.
For more information, refer to ECDA’s Child Care Link Portal.