TWO HUNDRED more childcare centres will be ready in about five years' time, 100 more than what was announced earlier in March.
By 2013, Singapore will have 940 centres with 83,000 places, an increase of about 30 per cent from the 63,000 places in 739 childcare centres now.
Minister of State (Community Development, Youth and Sports) Yu-Foo Yee Shoon gave this update yesterday in Parliament, responding to Madam Halimah Yacob (Jurong GRC) who had asked about the quality, supply and affordability of childcare centres.
The availability of affordable and quality child care is a perennial issue as more families have both parents working, and more people seek early childhood development services for their children.
The new centres will be 'in HDB estates and near transport nodes to make it even more accessible and convenient for parents', Mrs Yu-Foo said.
The sites for them will be released in stages, she added.
With the extra centres, competition will likely increase and that will help keep fees affordable, she added.
Childcare fees have been on the rise recently, owing to factors such as higher costs of living and higher educational requirements for teachers.
The challenge, said Mrs Yu-Foo, is 'not in the hardware, but in attracting people' to work as childcare providers.
Madam Halimah had said the quality of childcare centres depended on the quality of their staff, but low salaries often made it difficult for the centres to attract better staff.
Mr Zainudin Nordin (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) also asked if there were plans to improve the image of childcare staff.
Mrs Yu-Foo said some time was needed to improve their image despite the Government giving bigger subsidies and setting higher training criteria.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on Nov 19, 2008.