Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC, at the Second Reading of the Registration of Births and Deaths Bill (Bill No. 13/2021)
This Bill will help streamline the reporting and registration of births and deaths in Singapore.
This is important because the reporting and registration of births and deaths is not just a bureaucratic process of record-keeping.
But the registration of a birth and death can have far-reaching legal and social implications for the individuals.
I have 3 points to make on the registration of births.
Follow up by Registrar-General and ICA on births with insufficient particulars
My first point is on births with insufficient particulars.
Under the new section 9(2), the Registrar-General may register a child’s birth based on incomplete particulars if the birth is capable of being registered on the basis of the incomplete particulars.
Under section 9(3), the Registrar-General may also register a birth without a name for the child. In such cases a responsible person for the child must apply to register a name of the child within 7 years of the birth.
However, 7 years is a very long time for a child not to have a registered name. Will MHA consider shortening this timeframe?
The Registrar-General has broad power to obtain information under the new section 42(1).
While the Bill places obligations on responsible persons for the registration of births, can Minister clarify whether the Registrar-General or ICA will take a proactive approach in following up with the responsible persons in such cases of incomplete particulars and missing names?
Taking a proactive approach where the responsible persons are unable or unwilling to meet their obligations is important as proper registration may have implications on the child who does not have any power over the registration process.
Support to stateless children
My second point is on support to children who are stateless by being born in Singapore to non-citizen parents who did not or could not obtain citizenship for their children from their home countries.
Minister Shanmugam shared in February this year that as of 30 November 2020, there were 1,109 stateless persons living in Singapore. Of this number about three-quarters are Singapore Permanent Residents (PR).
I understand that ICA evaluates every application for PR or citizenship on a range of criteria and the applicant’s circumstances.
Can Minister share if ICA informs other ministries, in particular MSF, of children registered at birth as stateless to ensure that these children do not fall through the gaps in social and educational support?
I appreciate that citizenship has to be granted based on careful assessment of a range of factors. I also appreciate that some degree of social and educational support is already extended to stateless children with PR status.
However, stateless children and their families have to jump through additional bureaucratic hoops in order to obtain social and educational support required.
Even where citizenship cannot be immediately granted, can the ICA work together with other Ministries to make it easier for stateless children to obtain the necessary support or even to proactively reach out to this group of who may be more vulnerable without the guarantees and protections of citizenship?
Children who do not have fathers named or mother is not married to father
My third point is about the children born to single unwed mothers. These are children who do not have a father named on their birth certificate or who have a father named on the birth certificate who is not married to the mother.
In November 2018, MSF shared that the median incomes of single unwed parents below 35 years old was in the range of $500 to $700 from the years of 2013 to 2017.
Can Minister share whether ICA informs MSF when a birth is registered without a father or with a father who is not married to the mother, so that appropriate support where needed, can be offered to the mothers right from the start?
For instance, ECDA works with Social Service Offices, Family Service Centres and hospitals to reach out to pregnant mothers and families who can benefit from KidSTART.
I understand from some single unwed mothers that social workers have approached the mothers at the hospital to provide support.
Can Minister share if there is a system of informing MSF of all children who are born to single unwed mothers, whether in hospitals or otherwise, so that MSF can look into extending the necessary support to the families?
Notwithstanding these clarifications, I stand in support of the Bill.
Watch the speech here.