About 200 childcare centres, or 15 per cent of all centres in Singapore, will raise their fees this year.
The proportion of the childcare industry raising fees this year is lower than the 20 per cent to 25 per cent in previous years, and comes after the implementation of government schemes that require certain operators to meet fee caps.
For 2017, most increments are 5 per cent to 10 per cent of the current fees, said the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), which oversees the pre-school sector.
As of end-September 2016, which was when latest figures were available, childcare operators charged an average fee of $1,011 a month for full-day childcare.
Those hiking fees this year said it is to cope with rising manpower costs, or because they had not raised fees in previous years.
Among the centres raising fees, the vast majority – more than eight in 10 – are run by private operators.
Less than 10 per cent of them are run by anchor operators, and the rest are run by voluntary welfare organisations.
None of the centres run by partner operators will raise fees.
Anchor and partner operators – which are government-appointed and have at least 300 places – get government grants but have to cap fees, at $720 and $800 a month respectively for full-day childcare, among other criteria.
Over 40 per cent of Singaporean children are enrolled in such centres, up from 20 per cent in 2012.
An ECDA spokesman said the schemes have helped to “anchor industry fees, as the operators are subject to fee caps and controls on fee increases within those caps”.
He told The Sunday Times: “After the partner operator scheme was implemented (in late 2015), the childcare industry median fee fell from $900 in January 2015 to $856 in January 2016, and is expected to continue at $856 in January 2017.”
All 169 centres under the partner operator scheme had to implement a one-off fee cut on Jan 1 last year, on top of meeting the fee cap. The spokesman said there are no changes to the fee caps for both schemes.
One preschool that is increasing fees is anchor operator My First Skool, which has 125 centres here. It will raise fees at six centres by up to 5 per cent.
The Sunday Times understands that another anchor operator, MY World, will also raise fees at fewer than half of its 29 centres.
Ms Loy Wee Mee, director of Pre-School By-The-Park, said fees at two of its five centres here will increase by about 5 per cent. “We are raising our fees as our last adjustment was in 2013. It is inevitable, given the higher costs of operations,” she said.
Some other private operators, such as Sheffield Kidsworld and Ameba Schoolhouse, said they decided not to raise fees despite high operational costs because they wanted to be considerate towards parents, given the slowing economy.
Meanwhile, ECDA said it will continue to “facilitate the provision of affordable and good quality pre- school services” through the anchor and partner operator schemes.
Centres run by those operators are expected to make up half the market by 2020.
Interior designer Sue Bing Hao, 31, has a four-year-old daughter enrolled at a My First Skool centre that will not raise its fees this year.
He said: “It is good that it is not raising fees, but I guess it is a matter of time before the fee limits on anchor and partner operators are raised… I just hope that when fees go up, quality will go up too to justify the increase in fees.”
A version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times.