The other main drawback of the M&P package is the lack of recognition or acknowledgment of the important role of stay-at-home mothers. Many of the incentives listed in the M&P package are rightly focused on working parents since they face difficult challenges both at home and in the workplace. However, for stay-at-home mums, let us not forget the sacrifices that they have made for their children. These mothers could have highly qualified backgrounds and could have easily risen through the ranks to become successful Professionals, Managers and Executives (PMEs for short). Nonetheless, some have decided to sacrifice their careers to be at home with their children to care and nurture them. Their economic contributions whilst not as tangible, should not be ignored by the Government.
Child raising is tough work. For home-makers with two or more children and with no domestic help, they may need to place one or more of their children in childcare for the younger ones or student care for the older ones. The problem now is that there is no childcare or child minding subsidy for them as they are not gainfully employed. Extending the current subsidy to home-makers who have two or more children will be helpful.
Likewise, for full-time home-makers, government should even consider a yearly top up to their CPF Medisave and Special Accounts. Stay at home mums can also be equipped with the right skills and knowledge to set up home businesses to supplement the family income. In this regard, the Government can help to provide interest-free or nominal interest micro-loans to these budding home entrepreneurs.
The switch from a stay at home mum to back-to-work women is another area for us to focus on in this tight labour market situation. We need better information and knowledge on what are the challenges and difficulties that they face in integrating back to the workplace. Some female PMEs I met tell me that have been required to take deep pay cuts to re-join the workforce. They are also often biased against as they are seen to have ‘lost touch’. Ministry of Manpower should study the ways that we can properly optimise this often neglected source of talent and manpower. Surely we can do more for stay-at-home mothers, who have devoted their own lives to the next generation, to nation building.