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Understanding Singapore’s fertility challenge: More than just incentives

Letter: Singapore’s ongoing efforts to boost its fertility rate, despite various incentives, face hurdles due to modern life stresses and personal concerns. Procreation, deeply personal and influenced by multifaceted challenges, demands understanding and respect for individual choices.



by Teo Kueh Liang

I refer to the Straits Times report, “Beyond money: Why financial incentives alone aren’t encouraging more births It’s all in the head” (14 Sep).

Most developed countries’ population is shrinking, which will be an inevitable trend. Singapore is following suit.

Usually, a country encourages its people to have more children based on the following considerations:

  1. Sustainably maintain a sufficient workforce, strengthen the country’s economy
  2. Prevent or delay population aging
  3. Reduce the financial burden on existing taxpayers
  4. Cut the reliance upon foreign immigrants.
  5. Ensuring a sufficient supply of soldiers

The increase of population is indeed in the interest of a nation.

Since 1987, the Singaporean government has actively encouraged its married people (especially those young married couples) to have more children.

The relevant authorities have worked hard, spent huge sums of money, and used a lot of human and material resources to promote procreation.

The government has introduced initiatives to encourage marriage and raise fertility, such as Housing Grants, the MediSave Grant for Newborns, Baby Bonus, affordable and quality preschool education for all, the KidStart programme, and shared parental leave.

However, its results have always been unsatisfactory; they have not reached the pre-set goal of 2.1 replacement fertility rate.

Why is the country’s fertility rate so low? Let’s analyze some possible reasons:

  1. Due to the hustle and bustle of life and high costs of living.
  2. Due to stiff competitions in jobs of this cosmopolitan city, most people are struggling to make a decent living in order to put foods on the table, and people have no desire of priority in the thought of procreation.
  3. Many salaried employees are worried that the economic uncertainty and downturn will affect their company’s business, which will lead to the instability of their jobs and affect their mood for procreation.
  4. Many people worry that raising children is a lifelong matter. Couples must be mentally prepared to a certain extent and must sacrifice their own time, energy and money to plan how to raise children from birth to graduation from college.
  5. Some married couples also worry about having unhealthy babies, such as those born with rare congenital or autistic syndromes.
  6. Certainly, some married couples are unsuitable to have children because of their medical conditions.

Although having children is indeed a natural responsibility, it is originally a joyful thing, and a couple can enjoy the happiness of a family. But it varies from person to person.

Anyway, the subject of procreation is very personal. There is no right and wrong answer to it, and we should respect each individual’s decision.

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they take in so many Fts and convert them to new citizens… these new citizens also find themselves in the same situation as the older existing citizens and following the same low birthrate trend . The proper birthrate policy is to just use foreigners to pay taxes and somehow channel these taxes to existing local born citizens to aid them to have families and children. instead of addressing the root causes u adddress the symptoms and add on to the root more problems . it means u will never solve the problem

u cant have children and family in a country that is dependent on external resources. because without internal resources , the country is doomed.

“Usually, a country encourages its people to have more children based on the following considerations: Sustainably maintain a sufficient workforce, strengthen the country’s economy Prevent or delay population aging Reduce the financial burden on existing taxpayers Cut the reliance upon foreign immigrants. Ensuring a sufficient supply of soldiers” gah did 1 but ignored 4. and the FTs aren’t producing a lot of babies or forcing them to stay here as citizens either. so fail at 2 as well. 3? FTs cost money too, building hostel for the cheaper labour, feeding them. for more highend Banker FTs, cost escalate even more!… Read more »

Missed out the the most important reason for our low TFR: 7) a kayu son who thinks economic numbers are far more valuable to his legacy than a self-sustaining local SG-born population. The oft excuse is that this issue is a very personal matter. But they can suppressed our birthrate in the 1960-80s with draconic measures like “encouraged” sterilization, a “the more you have, the less they get” campaign, the “2 is enough” slogan played over the radio every hour, etc. Oh, those weren’t very personal, hor? Only when they FAILED in their policies, then it is always the people’s… Read more »