What is the government doing about Singapore's low birth rate?
What is the Singapore government doing to reverse the low fertility rate in Singapore?
The Singapore Budget 2019 statement was delivered by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on 18 February. Much was discussed about the healthcare sector and two big bonus packages were announced. But if you paid close attention, not much was said about benefits for young parents or incentives for couples in Singapore to start a family this year despite a low fertility rate in Singapore.
Alarmingly, not only is there a low fertility rate in Singapore but the birth rates are also declining. So, it is surprising that the Budget 2019 did not pay more attention to addressing this issue.
Roshni Mahtani, CEO and founder of Tickled Media and theAsianparent, posed a very important and timely question to Minister Heng during the Singapore Budget Forum 2019 “Ask the Minister” session:
Singapore’s birth rate is at its lowest in seven years, at 1.16 births per woman. This is nowhere near replacement level. Is there anything we are doing to increase the birth rate in Singapore?
Fertility rate in Singapore lowest in seven years: What was the Minister’s response?
“It is indeed an important issue for us, because our fertility rate is coming down and we really hope to support young parents in this,” replies Minister Heng.
However, Mr Heng continues that the government cannot address 100% of issues in every Budget. He went on to say that over the years, the government has already extended a lot of support to parents, including the Baby Bonus. That alone is worth $18,000 per child, he explains. Still, the fertility rate in Singapore is on a downward trend.
Support from the government is ongoing
“Our primary schools and secondary schools are almost free. And when our children go into the institutes of higher learning, the subsidies range from 75-90%,” he adds.
“The Government spent about $1 billion on the pre-school sector in 2018. This is more than two and a half times of the $360 million that it spent in 2012.
It subsidises over 90 per cent of the total cost of educating children. This means that a child entering primary school in 2018 will receive over $130,000 in education subsidies by the time he or she completes secondary education,” Minister Heng says in the Budget statement.
Additional support for parents announced in Budget 2019
“All of these are very significant support for our children over time. So I do hope that we make full use of all this,” Minister Heng adds.
So how exactly will Singaporean families benefit from this year’s budget?
- Through the recently enhanced MOE Financial Assistance Scheme, children from lower-income families will receive more support.
- The Government will provide an income tax subsidy of 50%, subject to a cap of $200, for the Year of Assessment 2019. The age limit of 12 years and below for children will also be removed. This is to provide greater support for working mothers with handicapped and dependent children.
- Primary and secondary students will be getting a $150 top-up in their Edusave accounts. Those 17- 20 to get up to $500 in post-secondary education accounts to assist parents with tertiary education costs.
Change in mindset needed
Still, a hard truth faces us. Despite all the support given to parents in previous budgets, and in the current budget, Singapore’s birth rate is still low.
Minister Heng believes that to overcome this, a change in mindset is needed. “Most importantly, we must feel that it is important for us to have children,” he says.
“We are working hard to reverse (the low fertility rate issue). But fundamental change in our mindset is important,” he says, concluding his session with Roshni.
Watch the full video here.
Also read: How to increase Singapore’s low birth rate