I’m not a mum (yet) but they surround me. And on a daily (if not hourly) basis, I get a very informative feed via Facebook wall posts – and now even on my WhatsApp – of issues that keep them awake at night: Childcare costs, tuition necessity, school admission wars, domestic helper issues, mother-in-law woes, and sexual (or lack of) frustration, just to name a few.
And while most of you would like me to skip to my analysis of the last issue, I say, one crying toddler at a time, let’s start with discussing Childcare Costs, (because when you hear about the cost of having and raising a child, it might put you off sex! Haha.)
Lots of chatter out there right now that daycare/childcare is eating up the lion’s share of family expenses in the Lion City, so I do a little bit of digging around.
Through speaking with my sister who is, imho, a prototype good Singaporean and a loving, responsible mother-of-two, I learn of a list of necessary expenses (food, pacifier, vaccinations), unnecessary expenses (aerodynamic pram, supersonic dual breast pump, tap dancing classes), and some unforeseen expenditures (destroyed iPads and new ones needed) that come with having a kid.
In fact you can go ahead and slap on another $1400 (less $800 working mum subsidies) for daycare (and already she is opting for the more affordable centres*).
I immediately think how I could better spend that money.
$1400… that’s a year’s worth of yoga classes; 20 sessions of nail art; an all-in week-long holiday in Bangkok…
But why childcare?
My sister explains – “…yes, I would save 20% perhaps if I take on a nanny, and even more if I take on a live-in helper, and maybe 100% savings if I can convince my mother-in law to help out, but I choose daycare because I know on top of being taken care of, he is making friends and learning something. The good thing about Singapore’s childcare is that they all at least offer some form of developmental enrichment for the children.”
Childcare in Singapore comes with its own set of value-adds – some more than others – but minimally, they help (or seek to) provide holistic learning experience for children, optimising their development in a safe and conducive environment. Which means they have to hire more qualified help than ever, which means they need to pay higher salaries for better professionals.
I do a quick search on how our childcare costs compare to other great cities and countries. Britain, America, Europe, Asia.
In the UK, the average cost of a nursery place for a child under two is now £4.26 (S$8.50) per hour across Britain. A parent buying 50 hours of childcare per week for a child under two would face an average annual bill of around £11,000 (S$22,000) per year.
In New York, families pay an average US$10,400 (S$13,000) per year for infants and US$9,100 (S$11,350) per year for toddlers.
In Japan, Government subsidized daycare, costs about US$800 a month (S$1000). Which sounds low, but you have to take into account an estimated 25,000 children are currently on waiting lists to get into certified daycare centers. This doesn’t take into account discouraged parents who have given up waiting. The actual waiting list is probably between 600,000 and 850,000 children.
Sweden would be ideal. Sweden’s maximum-fee policy makes childcare affordable for everyone. Fees are calculated according to income with low-income families paying nothing while the costs for more affluent parents are caped at SEK 1,250 ($280) per month.
Wow! Looks like Scandinavia is the one good region to spend childcare years. That said, the taxes there would be another story on its own. High taxes are the only way to finance the nation’s hefty social welfare bills.
Ok. So we are not the most expensive, but we are not cheap either. Childcare costs are relatively normal here.
Childcare has gone from what was once a luxury option to become an increasingly necessary rite of passage, and like products that become commercial, you start getting the undercutters and the fakes in the marketplace, and people start questioning if they are buying into real quality or not. And so, on this note, to answer the question of whether childcare is unaffordable, just looking at numbers is too simplistic. It’ll have to be a more complicated algorithm that incorporates how it contributes to the child’s early education.
But unlike my sister who fully embraces motherhood, I am totally not ready to share any % of my salary on anyone who is not myself. Sigh.
Here’s what I spend on:
I compare my average monthly bill (and mind you, this is just one of my many credit cards) to that of my sister’s and am happy to report we are both unapologetic of our indulgence, i.e. She indulges her kids and I indulge me.
Although I am of the mindset that some of her expenses come under “unnecessary” I think if I were a mum, I’d buy my kids adult clothes so they won’t grow out of it, but only into it. Smarter way of investing clothes money, no?
You can see that my mantra (and also shopping logic) is based on “I love me. How much is my happiness worth?” whereas my sister’s is “I love my family. How much is their happiness worth?”
*Depending where you go, prices range from $300 a month to well over $2,000. E.g. My First Skool, charges around $600 to $680 a month, with registration cost around $86 and George Washington Preschool charges nearly $2,000 a month, with a registration fee of $2,000