SINGAPORE (AFP) - Singapore on Monday announced increased cash bonuses for parents of newborn babies and introduced paternity leave as part of a package of measures to boost population and reduce dependence on foreigners.

Parents of Singaporean babies born since August 26 last year will receive a cash gift of Sg$6,000 ($4,900) - a rise of 50 percent, which applies to each of a couple’s first two children. The financial incentive will rise to Sg$8,000 for a couple’s third and fourth babies, as the government attempts to offset the high cost of raising a family - one of the gripes often aired by young couples in the city-state. At least one parent must be a Singapore citizen to be eligible for the handout.

The government will subsidise one week of paternity leave for fathers of babies born from May 1 this year, the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) agency also announced in a press release.

In addition, new fathers will be eligible to stay off work for a second week by taking a chunk of the standard 16-week maternity leave granted to their wives, it added.

Housing issues were also addressed in the Sg$2 billion ($1.63 billion) Marriage and Parenthood Package.

Couples with at least one child below 16 will be given priority to buy government-built apartments, where most Singaporeans live. Many couples keep their families small until they get their own flats. “We hope that the enhanced marriage and parenthood measures will help create a more conducive environment for Singaporeans to set up families,” Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said in the press release.