The record low fertility rate has been making headlines in Singapore since the release of statistics last month showing fertility rate dipping further to a new low of 1.16 last year.
The fall obviously worried many as discussions had been hot as to how the country of five million might get out of the troublesome situation of the population not being able to replenish itself naturally. Some even looked back on the painful experience of Japan who had completed the process of industrialization earlier.
Some suggested mandating paternity leave and more perks, and the government also tried to help the young people find partners in a bid to raise fertility rate. Nevertheless, government ministers admitted that there would be no easy way out and that they were not resolving to the generous but expensive Nordic model, at least not now.
RECORD LOW FERTILITY RATE
Even before the fertility rate dropped to the new low of 1.16 in Singapore last year, it was already at an alarming record low of 1.22 in 2009, well below the natural replacement level of 2.1 babies.
“For more than 30 years, we have not been having enough babies to replace ourselves,” Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng said last month.
Survey results released earlier this month showed the average household size was dwindling as Singapore went through the process of industrialization and leapt to being a cosmopolitan society of the first world.
The average household size shrank from 3.7 persons in 2000 to 3. 5 in 2010, and the proportion of households with less than 4 people rose from 44 percent to 51 percent. The shift towards smaller households was most prominent for Chinese households, of which 54 percent had less than four members.
Seventy percent of the households had married couples in 2010, down from 74 percent ten years earlier. About 47 percent of married couples were both workers in 2010, up from 41 percent in 2000.
The population is aging, with 24 percent of resident households having elderly members aged 65 or above, compared with 21 percent in 2000. 4.6 percent of the households have only elderly members.
WHY SO FEW CHILDREN
Many of the young people told Xinhua that they knew it was tough to raise children, sometimes even one, in a cosmopolitan society where people would have to be financially capable and spend enough time on kids.
It is very hard to have both a successful career and a good family, an office lady said.
A recent survey by local advocacy group I Love Children covering over 1,000 Singaporeans and permanent residents aged 21 to 39 showed only 3 percent see having kids as a top priority. Twenty-eight percent want a successful career and 25 percent want financial independence.
Nevertheless, 64 percent said they still want to have children. Of the rest who did not want to have children or were not sure about it, 39 percent said they would change their mind if finances were not an issue, and almost half said they would if they had a more supportive spouse.
Haresh and Rita, a recently married couple aged 27 and 25, respectively, said they would want to have kids as soon as possible, but said they would have to be first emotionally and financially ready for a baby.
“For now, we’re looking at what kind of career and work arrangements are available for us to make the transition from being a couple to having not just one baby but several,” they said in a contribution to I Love Children.
Days after the release of record low fertility rate statistics, the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), a women’ s campaign organization, called for paternity leave to be mandated by law.
It cited the findings of a survey to call for a mandatory two weeks’ paternity leave, as well as the fourth month of maternity leave to be changed to “parental leave” that can be taken by either parent. Such a move would provide “better support for parenting responsibilities and policies that promote gender equality,” it said.
It is now mandatory for employers to give new mothers four months of parenting leave.
Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan said the government would look at ways to help single young people find partners as more people were staying single and the married put off having babies.
“We know the vast majority of people do want to get married; we need to help them find the right partner and also see what other needs they feel need to be addressed so they can settle down early and start a family,” he said.
Balakrishnan said married couples on average have about two children, which is “healthy.”
NO EASY TO RAISE FERTILITY RATE
The government did not give much of a boost to the incentives in the recent budget. Wong, the deputy prime minister, said the government could review the schemes including the baby bonus as early as next year.
He has said that the government would continue to encourage couples to have more children, but admitted that it would take time to raise the fertility rate. The Nordic model, where fertility rate falls were reversed with paternity leave and highly subsidized child care may not work for Singapore, and it would be guaranteed “even if we do anything right now,” the Straits Times on Saturday quoted him as saying.
Some policy makers have argued that the reversal in fertility rate in the Scandinavian countries was mainly due to more children born outside of marriage.
Wong said Singapore would need to tap on immigration for the foreseeable future to support economic growth and mitigate the impact of population aging.
Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has said Singapore would eventually adopt the generous but expensive measures to raise fertility rate. Wong did not rule out the adoption of such measures in the future, either.
“If there are things we can learn, and if they work because of that, then certainly, we will have to learn how to adopt that,” he said.
Source: People’s Daily
LKY is playing GOD by his stop at two policies then and trying to create an ELITE society by only allowing those who have the money to procreate, similar to Hitler who has an agenda to create ELITISM.
– Contributed by Oogle.