Speech by President Halimah Yacob for the Exemplary Father Award
Ain Society President, Mr Abdul Malek Osman
Ain Society CEO, Mr Haji Md Yusof Ismail
Ain Society Board Members
Exemplary Father Award Panel of Jury
Ladies & Gentlemen
We have heard many moving stories today of fathers who have made a lasting impact on the lives of their children. These stories are a source of inspiration for all fathers, especially to the younger fathers of this generation.
Fathers play an important role in the development of their children. In our increasingly complex society, children are exposed to various kinds of influences, especially through the internet and social media. Fathers have a crucial role to play in empowering their children with skills and values that will help them grow to become discerning adults. They can be a positive role model to their children, and transmit important life values when they demonstrate important values such as hard work, respect and humility through their actions. A child who grows up in an environment where the father plays an active role is more resilient when faced with adversities. Such fathers in turn, have better self-esteem and feel that parenthood is a fulfilling experience.
Many studies have also shown that there is positive correlation between a father’s involvement and his child’s overall life satisfaction. A 2010 research conducted by the Fatherhood Institute in the United Kingdom showed that a father’s interest and involvement in a child’s education, demonstrated by his affection, support, and warm-but-firm parenting style, have great impact on the child’s academic performance. In fact, it is more than the negative impact caused by a child with an underprivileged background. Children who grew up with involved fathers are also more likely to succeed in their careers. And when both fathers and mothers consciously commit and make time to bond with their children, there is greater family-life satisfaction and better child outcomes.
Parents’ roles are evolving. The 2016 Marriage and Parenthood Survey found that 99 per cent of married respondents agreed that fathers and mothers are equally important as caregivers for children. However, more men have identified a conflict between work and family commitments. The 2013 survey on Social Attitudes of Singaporeans found that 58 per cent of men felt that their work demands ate into their family time more than they would have liked. This is 14 percentage points higher than in 2009 when a similar survey was conducted. This was again highlighted in the 2014 Employer Alliance survey where men indicated an increasing desire to have flexible work arrangements so they can help out with children and domestic responsibilities. The Government has promoted and implemented flexible progressive work arrangements and practices over the years. I encourage more businesses to also offer these options to their employees, to help both mothers, as well as fathers, manage their work-life balance. Many enlightened businesses who implemented such practices have reported higher rates of success in recruiting and retaining talent. This goes to show that people not only want to build a career but also want to spend quality time with their family.
To encourage shared parental responsibility, the Government has progressively enhanced the paternity leave scheme from one to two weeks on a voluntary basis in 2015, and the second week was made mandatory for employers to provide from 1 January 2017. The shared parental leave was also enhanced to allow fathers to share up to four weeks of their wife’s maternity leave. This was increased from one week previously. Other than leave provisions, the Government has also been working closely with the Centre for Fathering (CFF) to catalyse the Dads for Life movement that inspire, mobilise and involve fathers to become good influences in their children’s lives – for life. I hope fathers will take the leave that they are entitled to. Your action of taking the leave will reinforce to employers the importance of paternity leave and will continue to garner their support for doing so. Apart from mobilising fathers to support one another in their active fatherhood efforts, CFF has been organising workshops, parenting talks, father-child bonding camps and activities to equip fathers with confidence and skills to manage their roles and responsibilities. With all these schemes and programmes readily available, I urge all fathers to use this opportunity to spend more time with your children and participate actively in the care of your children.
Carrying out the responsibilities of a father is no small feat. In today’s context, a father has to not only provide for the family financially, but also has to ensure he is able to carve out time for his children. I am therefore heartened to recognise the efforts and sacrifices of these fathers through the Exemplary Father Award. Let me congratulate the Ain Society for organising this award. This is a very important move because the role of fathers must continue to be raised in society and their efforts as well as sacrifices must be recognised.
Congratulations to the Society on its work in helping cancer patients. Cancer is a debilitating disease that cripples the family physically, emotionally and financially. Families are often left with one or no breadwinners at all should the father or mother be stricken with cancer.
To the fathers who will be receiving the award today, congratulations! May all the sacrifices that you have made and the good values that you have imparted to your children be modelled by all fathers.
Well done, Ain Society for continuing this noble effort in recognising fathers and the sacrifices they have made for their families.
I would like to end by wishing all fathers, a Happy Father’s Day.