Asia Singapore Twitter user asks why big Chinese families are celebrated but large Malay...

Twitter user asks why big Chinese families are celebrated but large Malay families are seen negatively

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The Straits Times (ST) on 10 April, ran a story on a large Chinese family of 10. In highlighting the See family as an example of big families which were growing in number after the pandemic hit in 2020, the newspaper said that the family lived frugally to make ends meet.

In their article, ‘Feeding 8 kids on $300 a week: How big families cope in a time of rising costs‘, the newspaper pointed out how the Christian parents, both 46, vetoes what their 8 children (aged between one and sixteen) buys and eats and that they are open to having more children. The article presents the Sees as a well-balanced and adjusted family who lived in a large Jumbo HDB flat on the income of just Mr See.

One Twitter user in sharing the Straits Times article on the See family said, “Why is this celebrated but when a Malay family does it it’s always seen negatively? Much to think about.”

The ST actually featured a larger Malay family of 12 in an article written in 2018. Their article titled, ‘Married for 18 years, with 10 children – and counting‘, dated 24 July 2018, highlighted the family of Madam Elliawati Mohamed Ali and Mr Nur Idwan Mohamed Sa’at. Their 10 children, aged five months old to 16 years old, were portrayed as being tight-knit and having each other’s backs. The family is open to having more children.

The report on Elliawati and Idwan’s family said that they had applied for the Ministry of Education financial assistance scheme (MOE FAS) for their children. This MOE FAS pays for their children’s school-related expenditure – including school fees, uniforms and textbooks.

Singapore Citizens in Government and Government-aided schools can apply for assistance under the MOE FAS. A student is eligible for MOE FAS if their Gross Household Income (GHI) does not exceed $2,750 per month or if their Per Capita Income (PCI) does not exceed $690 per month.

Under MOE FAS, the child will get:

  • A waiver of $6.50 per month for standard miscellaneous fees.
  • Free textbooks and school attire.
  • One of the following transport subsidies:
    • Covers 60% of school bus fares per year if the child takes the school bus.
    • $15 transport credit per month if the child takes public transport.
  • A $2 per meal subsidy for school meals, applicable to 7 meals per school week.

The fact that the large family was relying on Government financial assistances drew criticism in some online forums.

The Government does have a national Scheme to help families with lower incomes be small, if they wish to be so. Called the Home Ownership Plus Education (HOPE) Scheme, it is aimed at low-income families with two children who choose to keep their families small. These families are eligible for subsidised home ownership and bursaries for studies.

In 2019, one letter writer to the SCMP pointed out how the Government’s HOPE Scheme is very opaque and that from her experience of working with a major maternity hospital for 6 months (between 2012 to 2013) she noticed that most women who took advantage of this Scheme were Malay women.

“In the six months I was there, I don’t think I saw a Chinese woman.”

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