The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

On Maternity and Paternity Leave.

Singapore's leaders are waking up to the fact that soon they will have no-one left to lead. By this, I mean that Singaporeans simply aren't having enough children: they virtually halve at every generation - and, as any schoolboy mathematician will tell you, it doesn't take an awful lot of generations, at that rate of decline, for there soon to be no Singaporeans left at all. Something has to be done.

So, the government has proposed a number of initiatives to improve the situation. I shall focus on the implications of one of them, in this post. The government has extended the statutory period of maternity leave from 12 weeks to 16 weeks. This is great for mothers who wish to, and need to, spend more time with their newborns. It is great for the babies, too. It is not so great, however, for employers - particularly smaller employers - for they have to arrange cover, by generally less well-informed and competent staff, while their new mother is away from work. This can be expensive, is inconvenient and may affect the business. Thus, employers won't like this change very much.

Then, again, even 16 weeks is too short, really. What is needed is a much longer period of maternity leave (as in many European countries), but this would only heighten the problems for Singaporean companies which, traditionally, don't really care very much about the well-being of their staff.

This creates a big problem for women throughout Singapore. Employers may come to look on a female employee as a nightmare waiting to happen. They may see a female name and drop the CV in the bin. Why? Because down the line, all they can see is the incurred expense and inconvenience of maternity leave. Employers who think like this will tend to avoid employing young women and will only open the doors to post-menopausal women. It may create a strange kind of ageism in which OLDER women are preferred to younger ones. It would be a curious reversal of present trends.

While the government is intent on improving the situation for mothers, it seems to have forgotten fathers. Dads now have earnt the right to a week off work, sometime, during the year, to help care for their child. A week is a bit pathetic, really. What is needed is for men to have paternity leave. This would give new dads the chance to get to know their children - and their children to get to know their dads.

Paternity leave serves two purposes: it allows dads to be dads - and it ensures that mums will have jobs. You see, if dads get 16 weeks paternity leave, too, then there will be NO difference to employing men or women in the workplace. Employers would have no reason to discriminate between men and women: for both would come with the same potential cost. Indeed, equal maternity and paternity leave for men and women is the ONLY way that a sex divide in employment prospects will not develop in the Singaporean job market.

This, of course, gives rise to a general principle which should apply in all matters relating to employment: whatever breaks or allowances that women get, men should get, too, so that there is no reason to discriminate between men and women in the workplace. It seems the eminently intelligent thing to do and resolves many problems, at once. However, somehow, I don't think it will be implemented. Other considerations will probably still take precedence over the resolution of the population issue - and so the population of actual Singaporeans will continue to decline.

We shall see what is done.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:36 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting, never saw it that way before. So if you are a Singaporean male - you are worse off because of National Service - and if you are a Singapore female - this maternity leave of 4 months work against you. So it is better to give jobs to foreign talent on 2 year contract basis - which means we Singaporeans are ****ed

5:03 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, there does seem to be a lack of forethought invested in matters relating to employment in Singapore. It seems that plans are implemented without the implications being properly considered.

Of course, lack of forethought is just what scholars are paid for. Exam smart doesn't mean smart.

6:55 PM  
Blogger Not a sycophant said...

Read in some OECD report that Sweden gives parents (fathers too)the option of a year's maternity / paternity leave ; during which they are entitled their last annual income. 80% of that income is borne by the government. Will Singapore do that to encourage more babies. Highly unlikely !!

9:28 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

The Swedish model is about the size of the intervention that would be necessary to truly work.

It sounds like Sweden actually cares for its parents. After all, they create the next they should be supported.

10:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Spore govt has swung around in its failed family planning policy after decades of trying to reduce population growth and sterilizing the less educated. Now after another few decades of lukewarm pro-growth policies it still can't maintain population equilibrium. Spore is not alone since Japan/Korea/Taiwan are way below replacement rate.

PS- Valentine are you going to publish my previous comments in Ethnic unity and Bilingualism?

12:06 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi AA,

I will have to look to see what comments there might be. Sometimes comments require time to respond to - so I put it off until I have the time to so.

Yes. Other Asian countries are dying too. I once read that in 500 years there will be not one Japanese person on Earth, for instance. Some countries will be gone even quicker than that. Some are really racing to do so. Singapore is one of the contestants in this race - and quite a quick one too. Take away immigration and people would be able to see the decline before their eyes.

Best wishes.

12:37 AM  

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