Several new measures take effect on 1 January 2013
by Hetty Musfirah
A slew of new measures kick in today.
Among them - parents getting better support in raising a child, and employers abiding by a weekly day-off policy for foreign maids.
Car buyers and taxi users too will benefit from new regulations.
With the new year, comes new policies.
The Child Development Account under the Baby Bonus scheme is aimed at helping families with the costs of raising children.
It is a savings account where parents' deposits are matched dollar-for-dollar by the Government, up to a cap ranging from $6,000 to $18,000, depending on the birth order of the child.
From January, parents can continue to dip into the savings account until their children are 12 years old, instead of six.
This includes paying for healthcare and childcare fees.
Sociologist Associate Professor Paulin Straughan believes the move is pertinent, given the demands of raising a child:
"A big concern for parents now is childcare. And child care for school going primary kids, primary school kids are not cheap for example, after school care. So if they are allowed to dip into the CDA for this, it will certainly help working dual-income families significantly."
The new year also marks the start of mandatory weekly rest-days for foreign domestic workers.
This will apply to those whose work permits are issued or renewed from 1st January.
All maids will be covered by the new legislation by 2015.
Employers and workers should agree on which day of the week the rest day falls.
And if there's no day-off, employers must give monetary compensation.
President of the Association of Employment Agencies K Jayaprema says agencies are also expected to play a larger role:
"The employers are going to need the employment agencies to be part of this, because we are supposed to negotiate the off days, we are supposed to be witnessing the paperwork, when the domestic worker actually agrees not to take her day off and to be compensated, so I will strongly encourage employers to ensure that when they are going through this process of off days with the employees, they should work with the employment agencies involved."
Separately, those eyeing a new car can stand to benefit from the new Carbon Emissions-Based Vehicle Scheme.
Owners of cars which are more fuel efficient and emit less carbon will enjoy rebates of up to $20,000.
This will be given as an offset against the vehicle's Additional Registration Fee.
To make an informed choice, buyers are advised to look out for the mandatory Fuel Economy Labelling Scheme (FELS) at showrooms.
The Land Transport Authority says only cars that are approved by LTA under FELS can be registered for use from 1 January.
Those who don't own a car, may also now find it easier to get a cab.
That's because operators must ensure that 70 per cent of their fleet are on the road during peak hours and clock an average daily mileage of 250 kilometres.
This translates to around eight to nine hours on the road per day, five days a week.
Transport analyst Associate Professor Lee Der-horng believes the move may burden smaller operators and cause them to merge in order to meet the standards:
"With this quality of service measurement, this may become a burden to the smaller operators, because given their size and given their corporate resources, it may be even more difficult for them to satisfy. Perhaps we may see the merger between the smaller operators but from the passengers side, this may be good news as well, as after the merger, they may better cooperate resources and they may be able to provide better service to the passengers."
Taxis will be also allowed to pick up and drop off passengers along roads within the Central Business District except for roads with bus lanes during the operating hours of the lanes.
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