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Higher demand for childcare, maids and gadgets in S'pore as more people return to workplace


SINGAPORE - When Ms Pamela Wah, 26, heard that she could return to the workplace from last Monday, she immediately ordered a portable breast pump costing $92.

The accounts manager at a tech company, who has a seven-month-old child, has to return to the office for five days a week. She said the wired pump she uses at home would be inconvenient to use in the office or at a client's place.

She said: "With this portable pump, I can pump while working at my office desk and do not need to hide in a room."

With more people starting to return to the workplace from last Monday, after the multi-ministry task force co-chair Lawrence Wong announced the move on March 24, demand for childcare items has skyrocketed.

Sales of portable breast pumps, whose prices range from $160 to $180 each, have jumped by 300 per cent. And sales of baby monitors that cost from $249 to $289 have spiked by 250 per cent at parenting tech company, Trekvue.

Its director, Mr Alvin Lim, said: "Many of our customers are young savvy parents who leverage on technology to help them better manage work and family. With more returning to the workplace, the take-up rate for such products has naturally increased."

Preschools, childcare and student care centres told The Sunday Times they have also seen a spike in enrolment and inquiries from parents as they return to the workplace.

Student care and kindergarten care operator Nascans, which has 30 branches in Singapore, saw an over 200 per cent increase in enrolment and inquiries at several of its student care centres in March, compared to February.

Enrolment also grew between 30 per cent and 50 per cent in recent weeks at preschool and childcare centre Mulberry Learning's branches at Changi Business Park and Shenton Way, said Mr Peh Yi Han, the chief operating officer of Global EduHub which runs Nascans and Mulberry Learning.

Ace @ Work, which runs childcare and student care centres, said enrolment has risen by 5 per cent to 10 per cent across its five childcare centres. Managing director Chua Ming Kok said: "We are increasing our rate of employment to prepare for higher demand in the upcoming months.

"Some of the schools which we are located in have also increased the number of classes so that more parents are able to leave their children with us amid the call for them to return to the office."

Some maid agencies have also reported an increase in inquiries of about 30 per cent on average.

Mr William Lau, director of Maid Avenue, said he had to hire extra employees to help with the surge in calls - from about 60 a week to over 130.

Civil servant Sangeetha N, 33, said that work from home (WFH) arrangements last year allowed her to manage, with her mother's help, her two children who are aged four and six.

But now that she has to go back to the office, she has hired a maid from Myanmar to help look after the children. "I would prefer to be able to spend time with them and not get a maid but this is the next best option," she said.


Separately, NannySOS Confinement Nanny Agency said demand for nannies has risen 10 per cent.

Meanwhile, pet owners are splurging on pet monitors, interactive toys and automatic feeders.

Sales of automatic feeders that cost up to $300 and interactive dog toys that are priced from $20 each have spiked 230 per cent as owners seek to engage and feed their pets while they are in the office, said Mr Terry Peh, the managing director of local online pet store Good Dog People.

Sales of pet monitors, costing $65.90 to $229 each, have also jumped by about 45 per cent.

Mr Dean Tan, the director of local online pet store SmartPaw, said: "Pet owners have forged a strong bond with their pets since the circuit breaker and WFH period. Thus, pet owners are purchasing pet monitors to reduce their anxiety and provide reassurance to their pets through two-way audio features and camera so they can still see and interact with their pets while at work."