MP Louis Ng pushes for Government to extend tax rebate and child relief to single unwed parents
SINGAPORE — Calling for an end to discrimination against single unwed parents, Mr Louis Ng urged the Government to extend the Parenthood Tax Rebate and the Working Mother’s Child Relief to them.
Second Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong said that Government support is provided to all children regardless of their parents’ marital status.
However, financial help for parents is intended for those who are married, and there will “invariably be a gradient” that leans towards promoting marriage.
Speaking on Friday (Feb 28) during the Ministry of Finance’s Committee of Supply debate in Parliament, Mr Ng, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency, pointed to contradictions in the Government’s policy towards unwed single parents.
“We have the Ministry of National Development that is saying that every mother and every father is equal, it doesn’t really matter whether the child is born out of marriage.
“But here, we’re now saying that they’re not equal, that because the child was born outside of marriage, they would not qualify for the Parenthood Tax Rebate and the Working Mother’s Child Relief.”
Married, divorced or widowed parents may claim tax rebates of up to S$20,000 a child.
For the Working Mother’s Child Relief, it is given to encourage married women to remain in the workforce after having children. The amount of relief that can be claimed for each child while filing taxes is based on the order of the child’s birth — at 15 per cent of the mother’s income for the first child and 20 per cent for the second, for example.
Questioning the rationale for why both the tax rebate and relief are not extended to single unwed parents, Mr Ng asked whether the policy is designed to serve as a form of deterrence, so that people would not have children out of wedlock.
“I doubt this will be a deterrence unless just before they have sex, they think about the Parenthood Tax Rebate and Working Mother’s Child Relief, which we know… won’t happen,” he said, drawing laughter from other members of the House.
He added: “We are not fighting the money here, we are fighting the stigma and discrimination, and I hope the Ministry of Finance will support this as this is a ‘unity Budget’. It should be for all Singaporeans.” Budget 2020 has been dubbed as a ‘unity Budget’ by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.
Mr Wong, repeating the points he made earlier in his speech on Friday, said that having a gradient in the form of financial help for parents does not mean that children born outside of marriage are not provided with government support.
“But so long as we take the view that we want to provide support for parenthood in the context of marriage, that gradient will exist. How do we manage this going forward? Do we still want a gradient? Do we not want a gradient and treat it all equal? I think that will evolve,” Mr Wong said.
He noted that there have been calls by other MPs for more support for parenthood in the context of marriage as well.
“So obviously, there are different views and we will have to manage these different views and continue to refine and improve our schemes over time to manage this diversity of views and to address the different objectives.”
Still wanting more answers, Mr Ng rose to address the House a third time on this issue, quipping, “I try one more time, Sir”, and asked why the help could not be extended to single unwed parents.
He said he hopes that excluding single unwed parents from the Parenthood Tax Rebate and the Working Mothers’ Child Relief is not a deterrence.
“There might be this worry that if we provide (these parents) with more benefits, all of a sudden, there is going to be a huge population of children born out of wedlock… I don’t think that will happen,” he pressed on.
Mr Wong replied that there are a “range of perspectives” on this issue and that the Government will take his points into consideration as it reviews and updates its schemes.
Mr Ng has been speaking on issues related to single unwed parents in Parliament over the past few years. In November last year, he arranged a gathering to meet with and engage these parents and to encourage them to mingle with each other for support.